The first newborn Australian sea lion pup of the season was born at Seal Bay on Mother’s Day, signalling the start of the winter breeding season for the endangered marine mammal.
The newborn pup, named ‘Remi’ by Department of Environment staff, is a welcome addition to the local population, helping bolster numbers of one of the worlds most endangered pinnipeds (sea lions, seals and walruses).
Seal Bay is the world’s third largest colony of Australian sea lions with an estimated population of 800.
South Australia is home to an estimated 85 per cent of the worlds’ 12,000 Australian sea lions, many of which breed on the offshore islands dotted around the state’s coastline.
Seal Bay Research and Operations Coordinator, Melanie Stonnill from the National Parks and Wildlife Service said the newborn pups were a welcome addition to the local population, helping bolster the numbers for one of the world’s most endangered pinnipeds (sea lions, seals and walruses).
“The newborn pups will spend their first months in the safety of the sand dunes, tea trees and rocky caves behind the beach,” Melanie said.
“Mum will spend three days at sea fishing, consuming a third of her body weight in order to produce enough milk to nurse their pups on land.
“Winter explorers to Seal Bay may be able to spot hiding pups in the saltbush while wandering the boardwalk or by joining a guided beach tour. Bull fights and territory dominance will likely be displayed on the main beach.
“By Spring, the majority of pups will have been born and they will start exploring more of their colony and the ocean while waiting for their mothers to come back. Hearing female and pup pairs vocalising for each other and witnessing the reunion is an amazing sight.”
The Australian sea lion population has been in decline over the past few decades, but analysis of the last two Seal Bay breeding seasons has shown an increase in pups.
Female Australian sea lions invest 15 to 18 months nursing their pups, usually until the next pup is born, and those that do not pup consecutively each season may spend up to 40 months nursing their now juvenile pups.
In December 2020, the Australian sea lion was up-listed from vulnerable to endangered under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.