Human consumption of a vagrant South American Fur Seal Arctocephalus australis (Carnivora: Otariidae) in Brazil

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S. Siciliano
M. L.V. Barbosa-Filho
L. R. Oliveira


The South American Fur Seal Arctocephalus australis is one of the most widely distributed South American otariid species. In Brazil, during austral winter months specimens of A. australis are regularly found along the Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina coasts. Occasionally, vagrants have been recorded along the southeastern coast but rarely moves north of Rio de Janeiro, at 23°S. On 01 May 2015, fishermen noticed in the surf zone an unidentified large animal in Ilhéus, Bahia, northeastern Brazil. Severely wounded, it was still alive when first spotted. Numerous shark bites were observed in the rostrum and flippers, the peduncle was severely lacerated and the intestines were protruding. The specimen was identified as an adult of South American Fur Seal based on the combination of the characteristic coloration of the pelage, head shape, body size, the relatively large eye size, and mainly due to the pronounced three cusped teeth in post canines. Fishermen decided to butcher the carcass and share the meat among their companions. The present record, however, is of special concern as human consumption South American Fur Seal seems to be unusual in Brazil. Pieces of meat were shared among fishermen. In addition, small pieces of blubber were used as bait in the local shark long-line fishery. Consumption of an injured and presumably weak marine mammal carcass points to an increasing risk of contact between potentially harmful viruses, bacteria and fungi and humans. This note represents an alert to public health specialists and wildlife authorities in Brazil. It calls the urgency of an outreach campaign advertising to the potential risks of ingesting bushmeat either from land or aquatic sources.


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