A photo of the seal, supplied by Helderberg Ocean Awareness Movement Image Credit: Courtesy of Lisa Starr/Helderberg Ocean Awareness Movement

Johannesburg: South Africa’s Cape Town on Thursday urged beachgoers to leave seals alone after one of the animals bit a woman and later died of stress following “days of repeated harassment”.

The woman was taken to a local hospital and treated for a bite wound after the late Wednesday attack on the popular Strand Beach, southeast of the iconic port city, local authorities said.

“Over the last few days, this seal was simply trying to rest on the beach which is normal and expected seal behaviour,” said Cape Town’s deputy mayor Eddie Andrews.

"His name was Freddy and he liked the Strand beach and made it his home. Many people respected his space but too many didn't," said Lisa Starr, Founder of Helderberg Ocean Awareness Movement.

But members of the public threw rocks at it, prodded it with sticks, had dogs attack it and otherwise teased it so that they could take footage of the seal chasing them, he said.

The seal eventually attacked a woman who was taking an evening stroll on the sand and walked into the animal having failed to spot it.

The beach was partially closed on Thursday morning, as an animal protection unit took the seal for a health check at a local aquarium, where it later died, the city said.

“This is sadly a very common outcome when seals are stressed,” said Andrews.

“We ask that all residents and beachgoers in Cape Town leave these animals in peace”.