Buffel, is currently resting on Llandudno beach, Cape Town.
Don’t worry, he’s just fine !
Yesterday this rare species to our Capetonian shores hauled out on one of Cape Town’s most picturesque beaches, Llandudno. May onlookers were concerned about him, but rest assured Buffel is just fine. Subantactic creatures have no natural fear of humans, so they seems calm around us, unlike continental animals. He is not sick or injured and doesn’t need to be chased back into the water. The Llandudno Lifesaving Club had put a barrier around Buffel, giving him his space and the public were respecting his space. Buffel has just finished his moult and is just looking for a place to rest while his new skin toughens up. How do I know this ? … Keep reading
My company, Animal Ocean, has been running seal snorkeling trips to Duiker Island, Houtbay, since 2009. In 2016 we were surprised to find a young Elephant seal resting on the island with our Cape Fur seals. I had never seen a Southern Elephant seal before, a new species to our island.
What is a Southern Elephant seal ?
Southern Elephant seals are normally found in the Southern Ocean with the closest colony being Marion island, 2147km away from Llandudno. They can weigh up to 4000kgs, dive to 2388m for up to 120 mins ,they are extreme creatures. But this particular Elephant seal, Buffel, was born in Cape Point, son to a lost mother who came ashore, and now believes this is his home. How do we know this ?
Who is Buffel ?
Buffel was tagged by scientists on Buffelsbay slipway, with a small yellow flipper tag (#16577) so he can be recognised from other elephant seals who may be passing by. Buffel also has some characteristic scaring to his eye and chin. We believe he is blind in his left eye from these wounds. Buffel has been visiting Duiker Island, where I first met him since 2016. He has moulted every year but the most public beaches have been Fishoek beach and Buffelsbay Beach. He moults somewhere on our coastline every February. Some years he is more secretive than others.
Southern Elephant seals haul out for 1 month each year to moult. This is known as a catastrophic moult, when all their skin is shed at the same time. This layer of fur is a fuzzy, light brown colour. The new layer much darker and the thin layer of fur grows later. Other species moult gradually, think about how your dog continually drops hair around the house. Elephant seals are extremely deep diving mammals and their skin is damaged in the process due to decreased blood flow during extreme dives. The seals must haul out and stay ashore for nearly a month, unable to enter the water to feed because of temporary sensitivity to temperature change.
Buffel was reported to be on Olifantsbos beach in Cape Point Nature reserve on the 26th Feb 2021, here he was starting his moulting process. I went to try find him, but he had moved to Dias beach, where he completed his yearly moult. He then move to Duiker Island where he was spotted on Animal Ocean’s seal snorkeling trips. He didn’t stay long and moved to Llandudno yesterday. He has completed his moult and is as skinny as he can get, he hasn’t eaten in a month ! He skin also obviously dark and probably still itchy and sensitive to the cold.
Here are some links to past blog posts about Buffel and his movements through the years …
- Getting to know Buffel – First ID
- Buffel moulting on Buffels Bay Beach
- Celebrity on Fishoek beach
- Underwater at Duiker Island