uShaka Sea World is home to a colony of Cape fur seals. This species of seal occurs naturally in the colder waters off South Africa. Many of the seals living at uShaka Sea World were stranded along our coast, and joined our thriving colony after extensive treatment and rehabilitation.
Seals are mammals, and females come ashore each year to give birth to their pups. Their bodies are covered with a layer of fur which entraps air and helps to keep the body warm in cold water. When feeling the heat, seals raise a flipper into the air. The wind cools blood flowing in the blood vessels close to the skin, after which it is circulated to the whole body – thus lowering the body temperature. When cold, seals fold their flippers underneath their bodies to retain heat.
Although rather ungainly on land, seals are wonderfully agile in water. When swimming, their bodies assume a torpedo shape which allows them to move swiftly through the water at speeds of up to 28 kilometres an hour. The front flippers act as paddles to propel them through the water, while the back flippers are used to steer and change direction in the water.
Seals have good eyesight when out of the water, but when in murky or dark conditions, they rely on another sense to help them find their way around. Whiskers on either side of the face grow up to 45 centimetres in length. These strong, flexible bristles pick up vibrations in the water from up to two metres away.
The uShaka Sea World seals receive the best possible care from their dedicated animal behaviourists. Each day they receive a balanced diet of different fish species. They have voracious appetites and eat between 6 and 10% of their body weight every day. This would be the same as an adult human consuming 30 hamburgers every day!