A seal bit off a South African woman’s nose after she tried to help it back into the sea, an official said Monday.
Elsie van Tonder, 49, is expected to undergo surgery this week after being bitten on a beach near George, about 400 kilometers (240 miles) east of Cape Town on Saturday.
Her nose was found but could not be reattached to her face, local media reported.
“The seal had been lying in the same spot since Friday, so the lady and a few other people were trying to take it back to the water,” said Herman Oosthuizen, a marine biologist with the Department of Environmental Affairs.
“The young female seal then bit her in the face.”
Cape fur seals are common on South African shores, and many have become accustomed to humans. They are a popular tourist attraction and can be viewed playing in the sea by Cape Town’s waterfront.
But they can be dangerous and sometimes attack people who venture too close, especially in fishing harbors where they come into close contact with fishermen offloading their catch.
“It’s a predator, it’s got vicious teeth and if it bites you in the wrong place, it could kill you,” Oosthuizen said.