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The sea lion is a big seal which deserves its name: it has an imposing mane, astonishing speed and a loud roar. It seems so gentle when gilding in the sun, putting its big head on its companion's body but it won't hesitate to chase away a carefree walker if he dares to venture on its territory.

The male can reach a maximum length of 2,6 m and when raised on fore flippers, a height of 1,6 metre. Its weight varying between 230-320 kg. The female measures 2 m and weighs 130 kg.

Pebble or rocky beaches are usually chosen as a breeding area. The males fight to dominate a site. The most powerful and fiercest establish a territory at the beginning of December while the females are still at sea looking for food. The females arrive at the coast to pup at the end of December or the beginning of January. During this period the breeding bulls (dominant males) are very protective towards their harem of 5 or 6 females closely kept in a narrow territory. Two or three days after giving birth the females are mated and then allowed by the male to go back to the sea to feed up. They come back at intervals of a few days to suckle the pups. In February the male leaves the harem and goes to the sea to feed after his long diet. He feeds principally on squids, octopuses and fish. The females with their pups tend to stay near the breeding area during the winter. The pups depend on their mother for more than a year.

During the breeding period, the individuals conquered by the adult bulls as well as the non-breeding females form a colony near to the breeding territories. There is no apparent segregation during the months from March to October, but the old breeding bulls, no longer capable of holding a harem go away for a partly solitary existence.

The Falklands have seen a massive decline in the numbers of this species. In 1930 the population reached about 100’000 individuals but today only 3’000 may be counted on the isles. The main reason is due to the intensive hunting to obtain their oil and skin but fortunately this business has now stopped. On the other hand overfishing of fish and squid has become the main reason for this decline in the last 20 years. It should be noted the population in Patagonia has not suffered such a decline and it seems to have been quite stable since the 50’s.

Text: © M.Chabod / F. Bettex   •   Photos: © Fabrice Bettex / Mysterra




 
Falkland Islands picture - Sea lion

Falkland Islands picture - Sea lion

Falkland Islands picture - Sea lion

Falkland Islands picture - Sea lion

Falkland Islands picture - Sea lion

Falkland Islands picture - Sea lion

Falkland Islands picture - Sea lion

Falkland Islands picture - Sea lion
       
         
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