Southern Elephant Seal Buffel has returned to the Cape yet again for his annual haul! A rare sighting in our part of the world and from a rare species, here’s what makes Buffel’s visits extra special:
Hermanus, South Africa (07 February 2024) — Whenever Buffel (a Southern Elephant seal who has become something of a ‘sealebrity’) comes to town, marine life lovers get very excited.
Why? Well, Buffel is not your average visitor. For one, Southern Elephant seals are a rare sighting in our part of the world and are usually found in the Southern Ocean thousands of kilometres away. As a whole, Buffel’s species are rare and qualify for listing by IUCN’s list of threatened specials. Beyond being a member of a unique family of species that are found very far away, Buffel also has a special relationship with South Africa that keeps bringing him back to local beaches time and time again.
In 2016, the young Elephant Seal was discovered resting on Duiker Island alongside Cape Fur seals, which was an incredible (and first-time) sight for people like Steve Benjamin who had been running seal snorkelling trips in the area for years. This visit was for Buffel’s annual haul— the species’ version of moulting.
“Most haul-out sites are on Sub Antarctic and Antarctic islands which makes sightings of Buffel even more exciting,” share the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.
In 2021, the Elephant Seal was discovered on Llandudno beach in Cape Town, where he was caught chilling unashamedly (like any other local) on the soft sand. At the time, some people thought Buffel might be in trouble. But in reality, he had just made the trek for his annual beach haul again.
Thanks to Buffel being tagged by scientists, we know that the avid explorer has been to many Cape beaches for his hauls, including Buffelsbay Beach, Fishoek Beach and one of his favourites—Duiker Island.
What keeps bringing Buffel back? Buffel was actually born on Cape Point shores to a mom who is believed to have been lost. Buffel’s visits every February might just be the sealebrity’s way of connecting with home, and this year Hermanus has made his itinerary!
These hauls take a month and are quite an ordeal as the animals cannot hunt during this time, leading them to look sickly. But if anyone in Hermanus should encounter Buffel, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA notes the following:
“Please keep your distance, keep dogs on leashes in the area and do your best not to disturb him. If you are concerned for his welfare, contact the relevant local authorities.” Additionally, chasing him back into the water or pouring water over him is not necessary.