Namibia’s Deadly Little Secret: the Cape Fur Seal Cull
Commentary by Pat Dickens, Sea Shepherd South Africa Coordinator
In less than four months, the Namibian seal ‘cull’ will begin, and over 90,000 seals will be brutally clubbed to death in what is now the largest slaughter of marine wildlife on the planet. It is considered to be the most brutal of all ‘culls,’ and is now responsible for the death of more seals than even the Canadian seal hunt.
On July 1st, 2011, the annual slaughter of 85,000 baby seal pups and a further 6,000 bulls, begins in Namibia. For the next 139 days, terrified pups will be rounded up, separated from their mothers, and violently beaten to death. Pups, bulls, and mothers will be surrounded…men with clubs will move in, and the seals will be massacred. The sand on the beach will literally be stained red with blood, the bloody bodies thrown into the backs of waiting vehicles. Soon after, bulldozers will be brought in to clean up and restore the beach before the tourists arrive to view the colony, because all of this happens in a designated seal reserve.
The Cape Fur Seal is listed in Appendix 2 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This means their survival is dependent on conservation. They have a natural mortality rate of around 30 percent within the first few weeks of being born. Clubbing begins when the seal pups are just seven months old, still little babies, and very much dependent on their mothers.
Loss of habitat, commercial fishing, pollution, and starvation are also major threats to these animals. Between 1994 and 2000, it is estimated that some 300,000 seals died from starvation, even while the pup birthing rates decrease with each passing year. In 1993, the pup birth rate was 164,248, in 2000, it was 147,823, and in 2006, it was just 107,910, yet the Namibian government allows over 90,000 seals to be cruelly slaughtered each year…although some refer to this act as a ‘cull.’
The ‘cull’ is driven by only one man, Hatem Yavuz, who has the contract to buy every skin resulting from the Namibian seal slaughter until 2019. He pays $7 per pelt while foreign tourists pay $12 to view the colony. While Yavuz will eventually sell his fur coats for as much as $30,000, local Namibian workers are paid less than minimum wage. There is no profit sharing scheme in place, and less than 150 locals are employed for their participation in this ‘cull.’ "In order for them [the seals] to feel less pain, they need to be killed with a club that has a nail in it,” Yavuz, who describes himself as a so-called animal lover, has said.
The Namibian SPCA, that has the legal powers and mandate to prevent cruelty and end the ‘cull,’ have actually condoned the violent fatal beating of 85,000 baby seal pups.
The Animal Protection Act of 1962 (Namibia) gives the Namibian SPCA the power to arrest and detain anyone caught beating an animal to death.
Sea Shepherd South Africa and the South African Seal Saving Initiative (SASSI) are considering a variety of action-oriented options for later on in the year.
A big thanks you to everyone involved in protecting our wildlife from the exploits of man.