Irony of 'Drowning' Seals - SEAL ALERT-SA

Subject: Irony of 'Drowning' Seals
Date: May 26, 2008

Dear Seal Alert-SA Partners,

   Two new video clips have been released for you to enjoy.
 and Although this is another long email, its contents are vital to saving this entire species.

    Irony of 'Drowning' Seals

    Do birds fall from the sky? Can seals really drown? Each December coastal newspapers report the washing ashore of thousands of seal pups along the coastline of South Africa. The cause of these seal drowning is given as high winds and rough seas. Since first reported in 1917, it has been accepted as some natural annual event. Government claims the seal population has not declined, and therefore there is no cause for concern, it is just part of nature's natural cycle.
    That is like saying a Tsunami will hit the same island each year or an earthquake on the same spot yearly.
    We elude to the obvious. Can fish really drown or for that matter a marine mammal? Is it humanly possible and logical to accept that a seal can drown on its own. 
    I have a word for it, and its called the cruel and 'unseen' seal cull. Nature does not drown seals, we do.
    Just over 30 days from now, and for another 140 days thereafter, Namibia with 70% of the Cape fur seals in its waters, will begin its annual cull of 85 000 baby seals, starting on July 1. On the pretext of creating employment for 120 unskilled workers living in cardboard shacks near to the seal colony. In my next update, I will give you point facts about this slaughter and what is being done to end it.
    However, ending Namibia's seal cull, like South Africa did in 1991, will not stop the suffering or culling of seals. The very reason, why baby seals are being rounded-up and slaughtered on Namibia's beaches on the mainland, is due to these seals being banned from their former offshore islands. Where 99% of their former offshore seal colonies remains extinct.
    Commercial seal clubbing is not commercially viable on offshore islands during winter (July - November).
    Banning seals from islands and restricting their breeding to small rocks. Results in a cull of this endangered species. Either in being commercially clubbed on the mainland or drowning after being washed off small offshore rocks. Until this is addressed and ended, and seals are allowed to re-populate offshore islands. Introducing international import bans of these seal products to end commercial seal culls will never protect the species.

South Africa's 'UNSEEN' Seal Cull

    The islands off the South African coast hold the real key, to the future conservation and protection of this species. It is here where another seal cull occurs annually each December, far crueler and which to date has received little attention. Its the unseen seal cull of this species.
     In 1972, the United States of America banned all imports of baby Cape fur seal skins, as it deemed the clubbing to death of nursing baby seals to be inhumane.
     Instead of ending culling, South Africa legislated the Seal Protection Act to protect seals in 1973. In 1977, United Nations - Convention in Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) listed Cape fur seals as an Appendix II endangered species. International export trade in seal products to Europe thereafter flourished.
     Endemic or native habitat for this species is offshore islands which the seals require all year long. Geographically 83% of the islands occur off the Cape coast of South Africa, hence their name. Prior to government legislated protection in 1973, the offshore seal population accounted for 24% of the population, after protection, 32 years later, it is now 12% of the population.
     Clearly, this is no protection, and is failing the species.
     So if local protection laws, means more seal clubbing and island banning and United Nation's protection means increased exports. Who is protecting these seals?
     A total of 26 islands are found off the South African coast, historically all former seal breeding islands. All legislated as protected seal habitat. Colonial sealing activity exterminated at least 16 of these island seal colonies by 1900. Seals fleeing sealers found refuge on the smallest, awash rocks which was inaccessible to seal clubbing sealers. 10 separate seal colonies formed on the rocks, which collectively account for 1% of the offshore island habitat around South Africa. In an area known affectionately by seafarers as the Cape of Storms.
     With 12% of the seal population on offshore rocks, and 18% on South Africa's only mainland colony. South African government announced to the world in 1991, that it was ending its annual commercial sealing/harvesting/culling policy of 30 000 baby seals.
     Animal welfarists and rights organizations rejoiced. On paper, South Africa's clubbing to death of baby seals by human sealers had ended, but had the policy, of controlling the seal population, through culls ended, and were seals now properly protected under the Constitution?
     Government knew that if it banned seals from re-populating large former seal islands, and restrict their breeding to small rocks. Any growth in the population, would cause increased density or overcrowding. Equally, selecting which inappropriate rocks these seals can bred on, storms and high winds, during collective pupping time, would wash over these rocks, sweeping the new-born pups into the sea, drowning them, as they cannot swim for the first 6 - 8 weeks from birth.
     So yes it is true that new born Cape fur seal pups cannot swim, but they also cannot drown, unless exposed to long periods in cold seas, until they have developed a waterproof undercoat of protective fur. Knowing this, would female seals choose such habitats to raise their young, and breed the population if they had an option?
     I have witnessed first hand how new baby seals, completely defenseless as mother is away hunting, are swept off these small rocks as each incoming wave surges over it and I have witnessed returning mother's dive in after baby seals, and try desperately to swim the baby once again, back to the safety of the rock, only to be swept away again, as the next wave passes over. Until exhausted, leaving baby seal to drift into the darkness of the open sea. I have witnessed hundreds fighting for survival all at the same time, as each wave surges over.


       The world's largest wave, internationally hosting the annual 'Red Bull Big Wave' surfing contest, builds up over the offshore seal colony below. As each wave washes over the seal colony rock, as many as 700 baby seals wash off and drown each day.


       If the white sharks continuously patrolling the seal colony do not tear these helpless baby seals to shreds, unable to swim or dive to get away, City Council refuse workers will collect the hundreds of seal carcasses that wash ashore each day, including some that were lucky enough to have survived the 6km terrifying swim to shore. Some only hours old, who have not even had their first suckle, others just a few days old after birth. All that are found on the beaches opposite the offshore colony/ies, will be placed in council garbage bags and tons of baby seals will be dumped on council refuse dump sites. It is not uncommon for over 8000 baby seals to drown off one of the ten seal colonies within the first month.


      Although when first surveyed in 1972, 35 000 baby seal pups were born, and 32 years later, 36 000 seal pups are recorded. During this period of 32 years, over 1,1 million baby seals were actually born on these 10 offshore colonies. In any wildlife population, a natural mortality of its young is to be expected. Scientifically for Cape fur seals, this has been researched at 25%.
      The balance of over 800 000 baby seals or close to 30 000 seals a year, is drowned or eaten by sharks, due to the policies of mankind.
      This is South Africa's 'Unseen' Seal cull, equivalent to South Africa's previous physical seal clubbing cull number, although far more cruel, with far more suffering.
      With 99% of their former seal islands, uninhabited, unpopulated and still extinct and banned to them, although protected under legislation. The cruel death of 30 000 endangered baby seals per year or 800 000 over the past three decades, is directly each and every one of us, responsibility. We have let the new-born seal population drown off the South African coast, and shrink to 12% or decline by half.
      If we were to intervene, to save these baby seals before they drown, we would need a rescue budget per year, exceeding R360 million, as each seal pup rescued will require in excess of R10 000 in fish purchases, to fed for its year of rehabilitation, before returning it to the wild. In doing so, it would become the largest, annual wildlife rescue operation, ever attempted, and require thousands of volunteers for a year. As we cannot just simply, re-unite them with the mothers, as the waves will just keep washing them off. So officially no rescue is ever attempted.
      Instead its reported as a natural annual re-occurring event, at which storms and high winds, are instead blamed as the cause.
      Knowing that the solution, for the entire survival of this species on this planet, lies in allowing seals to repopulate, previous sealing islands, now extinct and banned. One person, Francois Hugo of Seal Alert-SA has been working on a plan. Whilst it is impossible to rescue 30 000 seals per year and treat them for a year, or to raise R360 million to do so, it is possible to find a long term solution.
      The 8 baby seals in the video clip, were the only seals to have survived this cull, and who each hold the future key to their survival.
      My recent meeting with the Minister of Environmental Affairs 's special advisor and Deputy Director of Marine and Coastal Management, laid out to them, in a 122 powerpoint slide show presentation, the urgent need to re-open these former seal islands to the seals. I await their decision. 16 islands are open to re-populate, which collectively make up 99% of the offshore habitat. Already I have secured in a written agreement, the re-opening of the largest former seal island, or at least 40% of its coastline. This alone, will give back the seals over 20% of their lost former habitat. Sufficient to allow all female seals in South Africa to now give birth to their pups in a safe environment, as this large island does not become awash.
     But the seals are too afraid of mankind or sealers, to return naturally on their own. Capture and relocation programs will not work as females will simply leave new island colony to return to awaiting starving pup on the awash rock seal colony. Instead in a world first, I have been developing the ability, to rescue a select group of baby seals from different seal colonies, and in a group rehabilitation, to find the means to re-populate these extinct former seal islands, with these babies. In which it is hoped, these babies will then adopt these new islands, as their natal birth seal colonies, and go on, on their own to develop these seal colonies naturally.
     The key of which lies, in perfecting the ability to hand-raise a group of babies, forming them into a colony and in which the female pups, grow up to have their own babies, but who in turn, equally adopt new babies rescued, to speed up the process of reaching critical mass, for this seal colony to function naturally once again.
     If you would like to partner me, in doing this most rewarding wildlife work in saving a species of seal found nowhere else on earth. Then please assist with funding, to empower me to do what needs to be done.
     My appeal in previous updates for funding for a catamaran boat, is the key to this plan, to date we have received about 15% towards its purchase.
PS - My banking details below.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA


Seal Alert-SA Postal Address. SEAL ALERT-SA, BOX 221, POSTNET, HOUT BAY, 7872, SOUTH AFRICA

ZAR is South AfricanRand
More information to be able to send the money via internet:
IBAN : 911 2201 321
ACCOUNT : 911 2201 321