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I Dream Africa

I Dream Africa

Seal Colonies

   

Seal Colonies

The coastline of Southern Africa is the only place in the world where you can find Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus, or the Cape fur seal, as they are more commonly known. They fight, mate, reproduce and fish in the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, home to the largest breeding colony of these seals on the planet, with at times up to 210,000 seals present during November and December.

A point of interest driving towards the seal colony on the left of the road is an unnatural, curved line running between a granite outcrop and the edge of a saltpan. The line is in fact the remains of the first railway track in Namibia, all 21km of it, used to transport guano and seal skins to ships in the bay. Guano, dried bird manure, used as fertilizer and in manufacturing explosives, was discovered at Cape Cross towards the end of the 19th century. Exploitation by a British firm between 1899 and 1901 resulted in the loss of life of 92 men, half of the company's work force due to negligence in the work place. Inadequate social conditions whilst living and working in a harsh logistical environment took its toll. All provisions were ferried by boat from Cape Cross with supply ships often arriving behind schedule. Water had to be transported by ox wagon from the Omaruru River and European workers were unable to endure the Cape Cross projects for too long.

The edge of a saltpan was where ships once brought in provisions, but all that remains of the guano industry today is rusted pieces of metal and a graveyard near the reception office at Cape Cross.

Near the 2 crosses is a 'seal stone' with an English summary of the Latin and Portuguese texts from the padrâo; an engraving of a caravel and the coats of arms of the national monuments council, a long flat stone with German, Afrikaans and Portuguese inscriptions and Câo's coat of arms engraved on an oval stone.

Visitors can view the seals from a 200m walkway, constructed of recycled plastic suitable for wheelchairs. Other facilities include information points, toilets, a picnic spot and reception.

Not surprisingly, an adult Cape fur seal has a healthy appetite and eats about 270kg of food a year. Favorites on the seal menu are Cape horse mackerel, Cape hake, lantern fish and pelagic goby. But the hunter is also the hunted and at sea, sharks and killer whales prey on Cape fur seals. If they make it safely to the shore, the danger continues in the form of black-backed jackals and brown hyenas, not just content on feeding on pups.

   
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