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Seal Attacks In South Africa Explained

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The beaches of Cape Town have recently witnessed a series of unusual and aggressive seal attacks. But what’s behind this sudden change in behaviour? Let’s dive in.

Seal Attacks In South Africa Explained
Image source: YouTube

The Clifton Beach Incident

A serene day at Clifton 4th Beach turned chaotic when a young seal exhibited unusually aggressive behavior, attacking a child and other beachgoers. The entire incident, captured on camera, quickly went viral.

The Domoic Acid Connection

Marine experts say that the heightened aggressive behaviour by these seals is likely a result of neurological damage caused by domoic acid toxicity. This toxin is a by-product of harmful algal blooms. Recent research has shown elevated levels of domoic acid in seals, especially following a mass seal mortality event in recent years.

Seal Attacks In South Africa Explained

Domoic acid is produced by the phytoplankton genus Pseudonitzschia. Under certain conditions, this diatom releases the toxin, which can accumulate in fish and shellfish. When mammals, such as seals or humans, consume these affected marine creatures, they can suffer from shellfish poisoning due to the domoic acid.

The Global Perspective

Seal Attacks In South Africa Explained

While the Clifton Beach incident was shocking, it’s not an isolated event. There have been reports of similar aggressive seal behaviours in places like Hout Bay, Yzerfontein, Fish Hoek, and Noordhoek Beach. Interestingly, marine experts have observed such behaviours in seals across the globe, from California to New Zealand.

A Word of Caution

While the connection between domoic acid and the aggressive behaviour in seals seems plausible, marine experts caution that the full picture is yet to be understood. However, the prevailing advice is clear: beachgoers should maintain a safe distance from seals and other marine animals. Seals, especially those affected by the toxin, can be very dangerous, and their bites can lead to serious infections due to the high bacterial load in their mouths.

The Video of Seal Attacks in South Africa

YouTube video

Interesting Facts to Ponder

  • Domoic acid is produced by a type of phytoplankton. This is common in very productive parts of the ocean, like coastal upwelling regions.
  • Seals affected by domoic acid may exhibit long-term neurological damage. Some seals, after recovering from the toxin’s effects, have been observed to be unable to complete their usual migrations, likely due to brain damage.
  • The primary trauma from a seal bite can result in puncture wounds, bruising, and deep tissue trauma. The secondary effect is often bacterial infections, which can be severe.

The Bottomline of Seal Attacks in South Africa

While the serene beaches of Cape Town offer a picturesque setting for relaxation and fun, it’s essential to be aware of marine life and the potential dangers they might pose. As we continue to understand the reasons behind the sudden surge in seal attacks, it’s crucial to approach these majestic creatures with caution and respect.

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