This visit to Namibia was not about red-tinged sand dunes and big open skies, it wasn’t about seeking out desert elephants or cuddling close to Himba babies, this visit was directly related to the Annual Namibian Seal Cull which started on 15 July 2012.
Amazingly, every year Namibia allows the legal culling of approximately 85000 baby seals for their furs and 6000 seal bulls for the genitalia (thought to be an aphrodisiac in some cultures). The cull is mostly driven by one man, Hatem Yavuz who has the contract with the Namibian government to buy every skin from the Namibian cull until 2019. He ironically pays N$7 per pelt, whilst foreign tourists pay N$12 to obliviously view the seal colony.
Bear in mind that this is a colony promoted in all Namibian tourism literature as a primary attraction and conservation area, yet for three months of the year it is here that thousands of baby seals are slaughtered. Seasonal workers are trucked in to club them with sharp edged batons, before stabbing them to bleed out and transporting them to the processing factories of Hentie’s Bay. The beaches are then cleaned and the reserve readied for the next set of unaware tourists who arrive from 10h00.
Its cynical and clouded in secrecy and aggression as police guard the entrance, tourism officers shut down any queries raised and the Dept of Fisheries’ Head of Seals asks you to leave the office. Worst of all is that no seal population figures have been released in years, yet the Government insists that the Cull is necessary for population control. The Ombudsman was tasked to investigate violations of sustainability and admitted in his report that he could make no make a ruling because of no population data, yet he gave the green light to go ahead in his report.
I was unaware of all of this until earlier this year. Quite honestly I can’t believe that in this day and age when preservation of Wildlife is key, that CITE protected animals are being shamelessly slaughtered for money.
I am now attempting to learn more and have connected with groups such as The Seals of Nam and Seal Alert to offer support. My visit formed part of the Beach Masters Campaign where I photographed the colony pre-cull. I return again in mid-September to see if any seals are left. Its genocide. Yet local Namibians defend the cull and bombard me and the activists with hate mail and justifications. How can there be any justification for the brutal murder of suckling babies?
As I stood on the Cape Cross board walk and watched the interaction between seal mom and pup which I tried to capture in these pics; tears streamed down my face and I promised that my heart and focus will remain with them until it is stopped.
Its terrible to wake each morning knowing that hundreds more are being brutally butchered, to see celebrities wearing fur as though it is cool, to see Governments such as Namibia’s selling out their natural resources as though they were in endless supply. I weep for mankind.
Yet at the same time I find strength in the brave few that put their lives and livelihoods on the line to fight for the creatures of the World and choose to join them in support. With this post I ask you to take an interest and do the same.