South African Fur Seal Facts

The African Fur Seal is a species of fur seal that lives in the waters around the continent of Africa. There are nine different species of Fur Seals that can be found around the world. One of these species is the Brown Fur Seal and the African Fur Seal is one of two subspecies of Brown Fur Seal. These seals are the largest species of Fur Seals. This particular seal is also known as the Cape Fur Seal, named after the animal’s geographic location.

Physical Description

Although the South African Fur Seal is a subspecies of the Brown Fur Seal, at birth the seal is black in color, later becoming a combination of brown and grey. Male Fur Seals have a mane and are significantly larger than females. Males can weigh up to 800 pounds, and females only weigh about 200 pounds. These seals are usually between four and seven feet long. The body of the Fur Seal is similar to that of other seals. They have a soft, smooth body and a long nose. They have flippers which are used to help them swim and move around on land. Fur Seals are closely related to Sea Lions and have similar physical features. However, Fur Seals have shorter flippers, more hair and coarser whiskers.

The Life of the African Fur Seal

The African Fur Seal lives primarily in the Atlantic Ocean around the southern tip of Africa. They live near the countries of South Africa, Namibia and Angola. They are often found around the Cape Province, Cape Peninsula and Cape Cross, which is why they are also called Cape Fur Seals. Algoa Bay is another popular location for the seals. They do not migrate and like to be near rocky shores.

These seals begin breeding when they are about nine years old. To breed, the African Fur Seals usually go to rookeries, including Cape Cross. Breeding takes place between October and December. Gestation lasts for 51 weeks and the seals go to the shore to give birth. Baby seals are called pups and the most popular time for pups to be born is in the beginning of December.  Pups only weigh about thirteen pounds when they are born. After giving birth, the mother leaves to find food for the pup. The pups are weaned at about 12 months old.

The African Fur Seal has a fairly simple diet. They eat mostly small fish. They may eat mackerel, hake and cuttlefish. The Fur Seal may also eat other small sea creatures such as squid.

Status

Throughout history, several different species of seal were hunted for their pelts, which are sometimes still involved in trade in Namibia. There were several laws passed prohibiting the hunting of seals in the early 1900s. However, today these seals continue to be hunted in seal harvests for the purpose of protecting other fish, as well as birds that live around the ocean. Seals are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, but harvests are still allowed to control the population. They are currently listed as low risk according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Threats do still exist for the African Fur Seal. The hunting of the seals to protect the population of fish has been controversial, especially since more pups are dying from lack of food and environmental threats. Like other sea animals, they are also threatened by boating, and many get killed accidentally when they are trapped by nets or killed by boating equipment. Some seals are also shot illegally by boaters. Oil spills are another danger to African Fur Seals. However, despite threats, the population is listed as increasing by the IUCN.

The African Fur Seal is an amazing animal with unique features and characteristics. This seal is only one of many beautiful types of seal. Other animals closely related to the South African Fur Seal include the Australian Fur Seal, the Antarctic Fur Seal and the South American Fur Seal. To learn more about these animals, visit http://blog.ifaw.org/category/species/seals-species/.