Interested in the South African fur seal? Learn more about the amazing Cape Fur Seal from South Africa…
The South African Brown Fur Seal also known as Arctocephalus pusillus is a species of fur seal endemic to South Africa. A subspecies of this seal is found in Australia. It is found in the Friar Island Fur Seal Colony in Tasmania, Australia and Namibia to the Cape in South Africa.
Physical Description of the Fur Seal
The South African brown fur seal has a very broad and large head with a pointed snout. The male has the dark gray or brown coat. The mane is always dark compared to the light underside. The maximum height is 7 feet and its weight ranges from 440 – 800 lb. The female is light brown to gray and the underside is dark but tapers to a light tone on the throat. The fur seal female grows up to 5 feet in height and weighs a maximum of 260 lbs.
The fur seal pups are born with the black coat and start turning gray when they molt resulting in a pale throat. The seals can dive to depths of up to 2000 feet.
Fur Seal Distribution and Habitat
The South African fur seal is found all along the Namibian coastline in Africa and also on the west coast of South Africa all the way to the Cape of Good Hope as well as the Cape Province. The Australian subspecies has made its home in the Bass Strait and its 9 islands located between Victoria and Tasmania. They come to shore and breed on the rocky ledges and pebble beaches.
Breeding of South African Seals
The South African seals rely on the sandy beaches and one non-breeding group is seen regularly on Cape Fria in northern Namibia. It feeds generally on bony fish, crustaceans and ascephalopods, as well as birds. It is known to forage in the open ocean. Traveling solo may be the norm for the fur seal but it is also seen rafting in the kelp beds in large groups.
The pregnant seals actually stay away from the shore and land for 7 weeks prior to the breeding season. They breed in mid-October and they choose their mate according to the value offered by the territory of the male. Both genders indulge in territorial fights with the same sex. The females have small areas but the males have larger ones, which may sometimes overlap that of many females. One male seal may have a harem of as many as 50 females!
The pups are usually born between end of November or early December and soon after the females start mating with the leader of their harem. The next few months are spent foraging at sea while nursing the pup. The baby seal is then weaned at four months old and spends most of the early months in the water to learn swimming and survival tactics. At the age of seven months the pups are known to swim for up to three days!
Predators for the Fur Seal
The Great White shark is the biggest challenge and a natural predator to the seals. The seals use impressive tactics to safeguard themselves from sharks like swimming near its fin to avoid the jaws, darting in various directions to confuse it, maintaining large groups and other strategies to save lives.