Sleepy Sea-lions

23 Nov

See those minuscule specks on the beach in this photo. They are Australian sea-lions sleeping on the beach at Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island.

Seal Bay is home to a colony of about 1,000 wild Australian sea-lions (Neophoca cinera.) There are also New Zealand sea-lions on the other side of Kangaroo Island but they gobble fairy penguins and we will not be talking about them.

Sea-lions spend three days at sea hunting and feeding without sleeping then three days on shore resting and renewing energy levels to get ready for the next hunt.

Australian sea-lions are rare. They were almost hunted to extinction in the early 1800s. There are only about 14,500 animals world-wide and 85% live in South and Western Australia.

We were lucky to see the colony on Seal Island because its numbers are declining. Today the main threat to the sea-lions  is entanglement and entrapment in fishing gear and marine debris.

One out of three seal pups live to be an adult. Surviving animals can live to be 20 years old. The bay and reef  are an ideal home for the sea-lions. Mothers can suckle their pups and rest in the rocky coves and sheltered retreats of the bay. The sand dunes provide protection from the cold south-westerly winds and rain.

The bulls are aggressive throughout the breeding season and fight for dominance and the opportunity  to mate.  We watched a little tussle and the biting and barking is cautionary for humans. They defend their females and even popular pupping sites .

Though they appear ungainly on land, sea lions have speed and agility when they need it.  They use it to capture prey and out-manoeuvre predators like sharks. The slow, the weak and those not alert are the ones who fall prey.

A side note. We were lucky enough to see the unusually shy echidna (sometimes called spiky anteaters) while walking on the board walk back from watching the sea-lions. Echidnas are still close to their prehistoric form with quills and a long pointed nose handy for breaking up termite mounds, their favorite food. They are native and only live in Australia.

You can see from the photo he was waddling away as fast as he could.

4 Responses to “Sleepy Sea-lions”

  1. obie November 24, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    cool pictures! hope you didn’t try to pet the anteater!

    • Jill November 24, 2012 at 9:39 am #

      You know they are surprisingly cute…like a hedgehog. But no, I didn’t pet him. People do not hardly ever see them. We were thrilled. So was the park ranger.

  2. Ursula Freer November 24, 2012 at 2:24 am #

    The anteater looks like a porcupine. Is it warm enough to go swimming?

    • Jill November 24, 2012 at 4:47 am #

      We have seen people swimming in the ocean at a beach near Adelaide. I can only suppose it was warm enough for humans. It is warm, about 85 here today. Summer is coming.

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