Harrowing footage has emerged showing a juvenile seal attacking beachgoers at a popular tourist beach in South Africa.
Uploaded to TikTok on Wednesday, the video has been watched close to 2 million times. Shot at Clifton Beach in Cape Town, it shows the animal darting from the sand into the shallows where a boy is standing. A group of men run to the child’s rescue as people scream and the seal lunges at the boy’s legs.
Seconds later, there are screams to “get out of the water” as the seal approaches a woman in a bikini swimming in deeper waters. A number of bare-chested men rush to her rescue, one of whom is armed with an oar.
“Oh my God,” someone behind the camera exclaims. The seal is grabbed by its tail and a flipper before being flung like a rag doll back into the ocean.
Jools Farrell from ORRCA, a marine mammal rescue and conservation group in Australia, told Yahoo News Australia seals can become aggressive if people stand between them and the open water. “You never stand between a seal and the ocean because that’s their escape route,” she said. “It can make them feel threatened and they will attack.”
ORRCA receives a number of calls each year from members of the public about people approaching seals, or even giving them food. “Feeding them is the worst thing you can do because they become humanised and start begging for food,” she said.
Ms Farrell said what most people don’t understand is that seals are wild animals. “People see them in zoos, they see them in aquariums where they’re taught to sit, they're taught to be patted,” she said. “People then see them in the wild and feel they can take a selfie, pat it, or feed it and that’s the worst thing you can do.”
Aussie beachgoers warned about seals
The video surfaced on the same day Australian authorities warned visitors to Victoria to keep away from seals drawn to popular holiday areas by warm waters.
A leopard seal was seen basking on a Mornington Peninsula beach and an elephant seal was spotted swimming in a canal at Portland in state’s southwest.
The Conservation Regulator warned officers will be patrolling beaches and issuing on-the-spot $277 fines to anyone caught getting too close to a seal. On land, people must stay 30 metres away from seals, or 50 metres if they have a dog — as their presence can lead to attacks.
“We know it’s exciting to see seals in the wild, but for your safety and to protect these wild seals we need the public to give them some space by obeying all distance rules and not feeding wildlife,” the Conservation Regulator’s Wayne Robins said.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.