Pinniped Species


South African Fur Seal

Scientific Name: Arctocephalus pusillus
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Pinnipedia
Family: Phocidae
Genus: Arctocephalus
Species: pusillus
Other Common Names: South African fur seal, Australian fur seal
Average Length:

Males: 6 – 8 feet
Females: 4 – 6 feet

Average Weight:

Males: 450 – 800 lbs
Females: 115 – 360 lbs. 


South African fur seals can be found along the coast of Namibia as well as the west and south coasts of South Africa. Their population is estimate to be 1.5 – 2 million. 


South African and Australian fur seals are the largest species of fur seals. They have a broad head with a pointed muzzle, external pinnae and vibrissae. The two species are identical, save for a small difference in skull structure. Males possess dark brown coats, while females’ coats are brownish-grey or very light brown. 

Diet in the Wild:

Sardines, anchovies, bearded gobies, mackerel, demersal hake, cephalopods, crustraceans, and occasionally cape gannet, cormorant, and African penguins. 


South African fur seals are found living on rocky beaches located inland as well as sandy beaches. They are not known to migrate far from breeding grounds, aside from foraging for food. 


Males arrive on the breeding grounds in late October and early November. Breeding takes place for approximately six weeks. During this time, males can accumulate anywhere between seven and thirty females. Pups are born between early November to late December and can weigh 11-13 pounds. Pups nurse for 8-10 months. 

Conservation Status:

While the hunting in Namibia is still occurring and shows no signs of ceasing soon, South Africa has taken a stand against seal hunting. Hunting in South Africa has been suspended since 1990, with the seals being protected since 1893. This legislation prohibits recreational killing of fur seals, but allows the government to issue a decree to allow hunting. While South African fur seals are commercially hunted, the IUCN has deemed the species of “least concern” in 2010. 

Threats in the Wild:

South African fur seals have been hunted since the 1600’s, with more than 2.7 million seals hunted since 1900. Each year, there is a commercial hunt for South African fur seals in Namibia, occurring annually between August and November. Quotas are set each year, and numbers typically are close to 60,000 pups and 7,000 adult males. This yearly hunt is justified by the Namibian government, claiming the increase in fur seal killings benefits fisheries. Aside from human threat, South African fur seals are hunted by sharks and killer whales in the wild. Pups are also prey of black-backed jackals and brown hyenas while on the mainland. 

Fun Facts:

South African fur seals can dive to over 1300 feet. Male genitalia, harvested for the aphrodisiac trade in the Far East markets, is one of the most lucrative aspects of the seal hunting spectrum in Namibia. 

Resident Animals: none