While at the recent We Are Africa, I spent an afternoon learning about the collaborative efforts between the Table Bay hotel and the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation and their important Seal Protection Initiative.
Upholding Oscar the Seal’s legacy – you’ll see him at the front of the botel, working with on a seal awareness project in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront. Seals are a vital feature at the iconic tourism destination, and equally so at the Table Bay hotel, where a statue of Oscar the Seal has pride of place. The ‘original protector and guardian of the Table Bay’, this seal’s story about his friendship with an eponymous fisherman, and then the builders of the hotel, led to a bronze sculpture being built in his honour.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, seals are keystone species in marine ecosystems that help maintain balanced food ecosystems. The Cape fur seal is by far the largest and most muscular of the fur seal family and eats fish, squid, octopus, and crayfish. Their semi-aquatic lifestyle puts them at great risk of encountering human-caused hazards like fishing gear, boats, hunters, and plastic pollution – the latter being one of the issues on which the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation focuses.
“We are a perfect fit to support the Foundation’s work with seals as part of the broader V&A Waterfront Marine Wildlife Management Programme because of The Table Bay hotel’s focus on Oscar the Seal,” said Table Bay hotel general manager, Joanne Selby. “Supporting this important work by the Foundation aligns with our focus on sustainability and our love for protecting the natural environment which forms our backdrop – this is our showcase to the world.”
Brett Glasby, Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation Wildlife Management Programme Coordinator said, “Society has a responsibility to care for wildlife. The Wildlife Management Team cares for marine birds, seals, otters, ocean sunfish, and the occasional whale that finds itself inside the harbour marina. The team uses specialised platforms to provide seals with an alternative resting spot to the boats moored at the marina, and to easily disentangle a seal from fishing line or box ties”.
“The V&A Waterfront’s Marine Wildlife Management Programme aims to create a cohesive environment which wildlife and humans can share, doing everything we can to protect and manage wildlife. Through the Aquarium Foundation, we do this by keeping a complete census of wildlife movement in the V&A Waterfront. This data collection allows us to monitor population growth, have an indication of the number of entanglements, and assess the areas where there are either negative or positive seal/human cohabitation,” Glasby said.
Table Bay will give ongoing financial support and has donated its kid’s book entitled “Oscar! Cape Town’s swimmers seal of Table Bay” to the Foundation for it to sell and keep the profits. The Marine Wildlife Walk created by the V&A Waterfront and the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation is an educational and interactive activity that visitors to The Table Bay Hotel can enjoy. Tours can be booked through the hotel’s concierge, with revenue going to the Foundation. The walk features a guided introduction to a variety of the hotel’s wild neighbours around the Waterfront, and every seafood order will result in a R10 donation to the Foundation, meaning that guests will not only be eating sustainable products but also contributing to wildlife conservation.
In the hotel’s kitchens, Executive Chef Lindsay Venn has a focus on zero-to-waste, which ties back to protecting the environment and supporting recycling and prevention of pollution, which is so harmful to wildlife.
The Aquarium creates awareness about the marine environment and its animal inhabitants, and there is a need to expand this message to the greater V&A Waterfront precinct. Certainly, an initiative that we can all get behind.
Included are some pics taken during the tour of the Aquarium, their behind-the-scenes visit is incredibly informative and valuable. Insight into the conservation work that they do, specially with rescuing turtles, is well worth learning about.