I am not sure who decided to call him Buffel (Buffalo) when he is actually an elephant. This southern elephant seal has become something of a social media celebrity since he landed on Fish Hoek Beach to shed his fur. This all happened about a month ago and the early reaction from the public was that he was sick or injured. Local marine experts soon advised that he was going through a natural moulting cycle and would not leave the beach until complete. Since then he has become the world’s most photographed elephant seal, quietly eyeing the curious human activity around him as selfies snappers abounded and more serious photographers tried to get the best angles.
Slowly the grey-brown fur has fallen off revealing a smooth shiny black skin underneath. Over the last few days he has ventured into the sea for short swims, even turning up in a rock pool around Simonstown, but returned to his familiar beach position each time. I am sure that his new fur will soon allow him to end his enforced fast and he will return to the sea to feed and return to the colder regions where he belongs. Elephant seals are not indigenous to the relatively warm waters (don’t tell the humans that at 12 degrees C) around the Cape Peninsula.
Apparently Buffel is a regular visitor to the South African shores however and is now competing with the African Penguin Colony at Simonstown’s Boulders Beach, for attention. When I visited he posed for a few photographs, lifted his head, huffed and grunted a bit, turned overs, scratched himself and went back to sleep. I think that he even winked at me as I took my photographs – but maybe that was my imagination. Locals will be quite sad when he eventually departs.