Poisoned fish spark seal attacks on humans: Brain-damaging toxins blamed after several people, including US actress Loulou Taylor, were savaged by the animals in South Africa
- Several unprovoked attacks by the animals have been reported in Cape Town
- One saw actress Loulou Taylor bitten six times and a young boy attacked
- Scientists have investigated, and have blamed a toxic algae accumulating in fish
Scientists have blamed poisoned fish on a spate of seal attacks against humans in South Africa, including one on American actress Loulou Taylor.
Several unprovoked attacks have been reported in Cape Town. In the one involving Taylor, the animal had just chased and mauled a boy playing in the shallows.
A previous attack was reported by a woman on a different beach on the Cape Peninsula where she was chased and pounced on, while a spearfisherman has said he was left with bite marks when a seal attempted to drag him into deep water.
The series of incidents prompted baffled scientists to investigate the cause of the attacks from animals which typically do not target humans. Seals will generally not initiate aggression towards humans, unless seriously provoked.
Scientists have blamed poisoned fish on a spate of seal attacks against humans in South Africa, including one on American actress Loulou Taylor. Pictured: The seal is seen attacking a boy who was playing in the shallows of a beach in Cape Town, South Africa early this month
Lifeguards at Clifton Beach said at the time they treated two people for bite wounds on Tuesday following an incident involving a ‘seal pup’, Several unprovoked attacks have been reported in Cape Town after a mass die-off blamed on toxic algae
But in Cape Town, reports of attacks have increased since a mass die-off of the animals along the coast. These were put down to domoic acid, The Times reported.
The acid is a naturally occurring neurotoxin produced by marine algae that builds up in small fish and squid. These are then eaten by predators in the ocean.
Scientists have said that the algae typically only blooms for a few weeks.
However, warmer waters as a result of climate change and pollution have caused the toxic blooms, known as a red tide, to grow bigger and to last longer, they say.
Brett Glasby, from the city’s Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, told the Daily Maverick that the attacks were ‘defensive behaviour’.
‘It’s not aggressive behaviour… it’s defensive behaviour. Last year, we had a mass die-off on our coastlines that was attributed to domoic acid poisoning from red tide algae bloom,’ he told the outlet.
‘The seals consume fish and crustaceans that have algae bloom domoic poisoning… one of the symptoms is a swelling of the brain.
‘The animals that survive domoic acid poisoning suffer neurological damage and we suspect that is what has led to us seeing an increase in the number of attacks around Cape Town,’ Glasby explained.
Onlookers rushed to help the boy who was being attacked by the feral baby seal in the attack earlier this month. It was the latest in a series of attacks on humans by seals in Cape Town
Pictured: A man was seen in footage as he grabbed the violent seal by its flippers and tossed it back into the water as the woman was carried to safety after the attack
HBO actress Loulou Taylor (pictured) said she was bitten six times by the angry seal pup as she swam on the coast of South Africa
In the attack on Taylor, who is known for staring in HBO’s Raised By Wolves, footage showed the enraged animal charging at a child and trying to bite him as a man shouted ‘get out of the water’.
Onlookers screamed before two men came to the rescue, causing the animal to flee.
But a woman can then be heard crying out as the creature went on to attack her in the sea. She attempted to push it off but failed, which prompted a group of witnesses to help.
A man eventually grabbed the animal by its flippers and tossed it back into the water as the woman was carried to safety.
Just seconds before the rampage started, someone could be heard saying ‘aw cutie’ – only for the situation to descend in to chaos.
South African authorities urged holidaymakers to stay away from marine wildlife in the wake of the attack on January 3.
The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) said lifeguards at Clifton Beach treated two people for bite wounds following an incident involving a ‘seal pup’.
South Africa’s sandy beaches attract large crowds during the holiday season in Southern Hemisphere summer.
‘Residents and visitors are encouraged to treat all marine and coastal wildlife with respect and to remove their pets from areas where wildlife may be present,’ Cape Town deputy mayor Eddie Andrews said in a statement in the wake of the attacks.
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