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Main image sea lion large
Main image sea lion large

5 things you didn’t know about sea lions and their pups

12 May 2022 3 min read

Visit Kangaroo Island now to meet Seal Bay’s new arrivals. Be in the know before you go with these fast facts.

If watching baby sea lions frolicking on the sand and taking a dip in the shallows sounds like a nice way to spend an afternoon, then a visit to Kangaroo Island’s award-winning Seal Bay is a must.

Pupping season at Seal Bay is underway, with the first two sea lion pups of the winter/spring 2022 season born on Mother’s Day, and they are expected to be joined by dozens more in the coming weeks and months.

As the pups grow, you’ll be able to see these playful and curious endangered animals romp around together and surf the waves while their mums head out on a foraging trip.

5 things you didn’t know about sea lions and their pups

Seal Bay Site Manager Alana Binns shares these interesting facts about sea lions and their pups:

1. The gestation period for Australian sea lions is a whopping 17.6 months, the longest gestation of any marine mammal and second longest gestation on the planet (Elephants have the longest). After giving birth, females will typically mate again within seven to 10 days.

2. The average life span of an Australian sea lion is currently unknown, however believed to be 20 to 25 years. Sea lions at Seal Bay are microchipped, so with the program now in its 20th year, we will soon know the average age span for both females and males in the wild.

3. In the first week of a pup’s life, the mum will stay on the beach caring for and bonding with the pup. Gradually, the pup will begin to explore and mum will spend about 15 months teaching them everything they need to know to look after themselves.

4. The breeding males can get up to 400kg during the peak of the breeding season, but will quickly lose weight while holding territories and fighting off other male competitors to mate-guard females. The bull’s role in the Seal Bay colony is to rest and sleep as much as possible so that they are healthy and strong to produce fit pups when females are in season.

5. Seal Bay sea lion pups are microchipped, where possible, allowing important information to be collected by the South Australian Research and Development Institute for the Australian Sea Lion Monitoring Program. This includes monitoring the population of sea lions within the Seal Bay colony, their relationships and mortality. Ideally, fitting pups with a microchip will be the only time in their life that they will come into physical contact with humans.

5 things you didn’t know about sea lions and their pups

Get up close and personal

A visit to Seal Bay is a unique opportunity to see sea lions and their pups up close. You can take a stroll along the boardwalk with a self-guided tour, or for something extra special book in for a guided tour.

With this option, experienced guides take you into the core of the colony, sharing stories about how these creatures spend their days hunting, surfing and resting. You’ll also learn about the species’ endangered status and the conservation efforts underway to protect them.

For some insider tips on what to look for when you visit, be sure to read5 treasures in Seal Bay. Or read about Research and Operations Coordinator Melanie Stonnill, who shares her experience of seeing a sea lion wander up to the carpark!

This story was originally published in March 2017 and has been updated with information about this year's pupping season.


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