Australian Sea Lion

Australian Sea Lion

The Chain of Bays is home to approximately 10% of the World's population of the Endangered Australian Sea Lion. There are two large breeding colonies in the region, one at Nicholas Baudin Island, near Cape Blanche at Sceale Bay, and the other at Olive Island, near Cape Bauer at Corvisart Bay. There is another, much smaller breeding colony at Jones Island, at the entrance to Baird Bay, and a "haul-out" site and occasional breeding colony at Point Labatt, in Searcy Bay.

The Australian Sea Lion, Neophoca cinerea, is an eared seal, and it is the only pinniped species to be found entirely in Australian waters. The species has suffered from extensive hunting in the nineteenth century, and numbers are now estimated at approximately 12,000 in total. Males are larger (up to twice the size of females), and are coloured dark brown, sometimes with a yellowish mane and head. Male Sea Lions are known as "bulls", and they may weigh up to 300kg. Females are smaller, and are coloured silver grey. Pups are born onshore, in rocky gullies or crevices; they brown in the first year of development, prior to their first moult. The breeding cycle is very long, at 18 months, and the breeding season varies between colonies. Australian Sea Lions have a varied diet of fish, squid, crabs and other marine invertebrates. Tracking studies undertaken by Dr Simon Goldsworthy in South Australia, have demonstrated that individual Australian Sea Lions have very specific foraging grounds and foraging behaviours. Australian Sea Lions may forage individually, or in small groups, at great distances (100km), or small distances (meters) from their breeding colony. It is also believed that breeding does not occur between colonies and that each colony is genetically distinct.

Australian Sea Lions can be conveniently observed from the lookout at Point Labatt. Binoculars are recommended. A closer experience can be obtained by taking a tour with Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience, where it is possible to swim with Australian Sea Lions in the sheltered waters of Baird Bay.

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