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Rare Sighting: Cape Fur Seal Preys On Thresher Shark in Cape Town

Rare sighting of a Cape Fur Seal preying on a Thrasher Shark near the coast of Cape Town. Image by Gunnar Oberhösel @theglobetrotterguy
Rare sighting of a Cape Fur Seal preying on a Thrasher Shark near the coast of Cape Town. Image by Gunnar Oberhösel @theglobetrotterguy

A Cape Fur Seal was observed hunting and preying on a Thresher Shark near the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. A remarkable display of nature’s unpredictability. This unusual event was witnessed by a small group aboard a boat operated by Oceans Africa, with skipper Graeme at the helm. The intimate boat is perfect for adventures and provided an exceptional opportunity for firsthand observation of this rare interaction between predator and prey in the marine world.

The Expedition Begins

The group, including Gunnar, a seasoned diver with five years of experience, Martine Viljoen, a Marine Conservationist, and Frankie Chappironi, the director of The Last Shark documentary. The group initially set out towards Glen Cairn for what was anticipated to be a routine excursion. However, they did not get very far before Gunnar noticed a seal exhibiting aggressive behavior in the water.

A Not-So-Common Sighting 

Cape fur seal eating thresher shark
Rare sighting of a Cape Fur Seal preying on a Thrasher Shark near the coast of Cape Town. Image by Gunnar Oberhösel @theglobetrotterguy

At first glance, the sight of a seal thrashing in the water did not seem out of the ordinary. Cape Fur Seals use robust hunting techniques, involving the use of their strong necks to thrash their prey, normally small sharks or octopuses, to tear off pieces of meat. Equipped with a long lens, Gunnar captured the moment, expecting to see nothing out of the ordinary. However, the group soon started debating the identity of the shark involved.

Identifying the Thresher Shark

thresher shark
One thresher shark profile portrait, showing an extremely long tail. Monad Shoal, Malapascua, Philippines, November. Image by bearacreative via

To their surprise, they realized it was a Thresher Shark – a species not commonly found in the coastal waters of South Africa. Thresher Sharks have a distinct body shape with their tails being almost half of their body length. Tails they use as a whip-like weapon to stun their prey. The rarity of Thresher Sharks in these waters made the sighting all the more special. Gunnar recalled never hearing of a Thresher Shark in the area throughout his five years of diving experience.

The Adaptable Cape Fur Seal

Cape Fur Seal
Cape Fur Seal jumping. Image by SURZet via

The Cape Fur Seal, native to the South African coast, exhibits adaptability and consumes a varied diet. However, preying on a Thresher Shark is exceptionally rare and highlights the unpredictable nature of marine life interactions. This event not only underscores the remarkable survival strategies of the Cape Fur Seal but also helps us to understand the dynamics within marine ecosystems.

A Fascinating Marine Dynamic

This extraordinary observation offers valuable insights into the behaviors of Cape Fur Seals and Thresher Sharks. Adding a fascinating chapter to the ongoing study of marine biodiversity in South African waters. The encounter serves as a reminder of the complex and unexpected interactions that define the natural world, capturing the attention of marine biologists, conservationists, and enthusiasts alike.

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