Love The Australian Sea Lion
South and Western Australia
This young sea lion is only 2 years old and loves to swim around her little stretch of paradise searching for food. She must be careful though, her kind is now endangered, and for very good reason. There are hidden threats in the water, a great invisible net which sea lions have been caught in only to drown. She tries to keep her eyes peeled, always on the lookout, but how can she avoid it if she can’t see it? She hopes the waters will be clear from these awful nets soon.
The Australian sea lion is a beautiful pinniped that lives in small colonies along the coastlines of South and Western Australia. They are sexually dimorphic (males and females look very different) with the males sometimes twice the size of the females. They also have different coat colours, the male dark brown with a yellow mane on the neck and top of the head. The females have silver-grey backs and a creamy colour on their bellies. Australian sea lions are very social animals. They may be a part of a large colony but they also have sub-groups, around 10-15 sea lions that are much more intimate.
Australian sea lions are very unique compared to other pinnipeds when it comes to breeding. Females give birth in an 18-month cycle rather than the usual 12. That means pups aren’t born at the same time each year. When it’s time to breed, she will make her way to rocky and sandy beaches, one of 50 secluded islands, to find her mate. She will always come back to the same spot, the place where she was born herself. The breeding season lasts for 5 months where the males will battle it out to protect their territory and their breeding females. This makes it very dangerous for any youngsters as a male will kill the pups to encourage the female to mate with him. The pups are born a beautiful chocolate brown colour which changes to their adult shine after moulting at 4-6 months old. When the baby is only 10 days old, its mother will head back to the sea to feed. They will be left alone for around 3.5 days and will wait for mum to come back to feed on her nourishing milk. The pup will usually be weaned after 15-18 months and mothers have been known to chase off their older pups so they can care for a new one, she will only care for one at a time. This first year of life is a very dangerous time for the pups with aggression from all adult sea lions the biggest threat.
This gorgeous species was heavily hunted in the 18th and 19th centuries by sealers who were after their hide and oil. Their numbers were decimated and unfortunately, although protected by Australian law since 1975, have still not managed to bounce back. Their numbers have continued to drop, causing their conservation status to be changed from vulnerable to endangered in 2021. Their greatest threat is being caught in gillnets, invisible mesh nets used to catch sharks. Once caught in the net, the sea lion will often drown. Thankfully, there has been amazing work put in to protect a few colonies where the colonies overlapped with a fishery. By banning gillnet fishing around breeding colonies, hundreds of sea lions have been saved. Australian sea lions are also at risk from other marine debris, habitat degradation, human disturbance, pollution from chemical and oil spills, deliberate killings, disease, prey depletion and competition, and climate change.
To help protect these animals, please donate to the WWF: https://www.wwf.sg/