Facts about Cape Fur Seals

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Here are some Cape Fur Seal Facts I bet you didn’t know about!

Here in the Southern Peninsula, our resident seals are the Cape Fur Seals. We do find other seal Sub-species along our coastline, such as the Leopard Seal, Elephant Sea and Sub-Antarctic Seal, however the Cape Furs are the only ones know to breed down here.

Interestingly enough the Cape Fur Seal and the Australian Fur Seal are almost identical, their only differences being the geographical ranges. The Cape Fur is an eared Seal, unlike other seal species.

On our trips out to Seal Island we come across hundreds and thousands of Cape Furs, either making their way back to the Island, coming from it, or breeding and relaxing on the rocky structure they call home. I find it particularly interesting how these marine mammals are adapted to escape the ever clutching jaws of the hungry White, and by looking at the make-up of a seal, we can see just how they do so.

Even though our seals do not migrate, the do tend to travel exhaustingly long distances to find food. They have been found over 200 Km’s off the shore line, in pursuit of food. Their diet mainly consist bony fish, some squid and octopus, and occasionally birds such as the African Penguin (Whom they share their Seal Island with). Seals eat roughly up to 170 Kgs of food a year; females grow up to 120Kgs, where males outshine by reaching a whopping 360 Kgs at full maturity!

Being incredibly fast and agile swimmers, they are built for stamina and marine living. Their limb bones are withdrawn into their bodies, with only their flippers protruding, making them able to move at exceptional speed. Through regulating their body temperature, they with stand awfully cold currents and can stay in the water for longer periods of time. They have two course layers of hair that keep them warm, as well as being comprised mainly of blubber. This allows them to dive up to 400m, with the bulls being able to stay underwater for over 10 minutes, and the females up to 7 minutes, giving them maximum time to hunt for fish, or cover the long distances needed. The Cape Fur Seals are set apart from the true seal, by means of the external ear; they also have closed nostrils, and really large eyes that can see both ahead and sideways!

We have over 40 000 Cape Fur Seals breeding on Seal Island in False Bay. Due to the position of the island, our poor seals have the vast voyage of getting to shore or going out to hunt for fish, and have to constantly be on the lookout for their apex predators – the Great White! What is truly remarkable is that the seals often, more so than not, escape the predatory White. Their speed, agility, and eyesight are no match for the beautiful Shark, and our Whites often have to use other methods of attack in order to feed successfully, such as breaching. They need to hunt from the bottom up if they are to surprise our nimble friend, and have any chance of eating that day. We have a standing expression on the boat, and before you decide, it’s important to note the above, when you are choosing to be on team Shark, or Team Seal!

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