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

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

If the idea of watch­ing adorable sea lion pups play­ful­ly frol­ic in the sand and take a dip in the shal­lows sounds like a per­fect way to spend an after­noon, then a vis­it to Kan­ga­roo Island’s award-win­ning Seal Bay is a must.

Here, you’ll wit­ness these endan­gered crea­tures exhib­it their play­ful and inquis­i­tive nature as they frol­ic on the beach and into the surf. 

The Aus­tralian sea lion holds the sta­tus of being endan­gered under nation­al envi­ron­men­tal law, with esti­mates sug­gest­ing that few­er than 12,000 of them remain in existence. 

This species found in Seal Bay is exclu­sive to Aus­tralia, being endem­ic to South Aus­tralia and West­ern Aus­tralia. Regret­tably, over the past three decades, their pop­u­la­tion has faced sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges from fac­tors like cli­mate change and marine pollution.

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

Seal Bay Site Man­ag­er, Alana Binns, reveals 5 cap­ti­vat­ing facts about sea lions and their pups:

  1. Aus­tralian sea lions boast an aston­ish­ing ges­ta­tion peri­od of 17.6 months, mak­ing it the longest of any marine mam­mal and the sec­ond longest ges­ta­tion on the plan­et (only topped by ele­phants). Fol­low­ing child­birth, females typ­i­cal­ly engage in mat­ing again with­in sev­en to 10 days.

  2. While the exact lifes­pan of an Aus­tralian sea lion remains uncer­tain, it is believed to range from 20 to 25 years. Thanks to a spe­cial microchip­ping pro­gram at Seal Bay — now in its 21st year — we are on the verge of uncov­er­ing the aver­age lifes­pan for both females and males in the wild. Microchip­ping pro­vides valu­able insights into colony num­bers, life and repro­duc­tive his­to­ry, as well as rela­tion­ships between these fas­ci­nat­ing animals.
  3. In the ini­tial week of a pup’s life, the moth­er will stay on the beach, tend­ing to and form­ing a bond with her 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. Breed­ing males can reach weights of up to 400kg dur­ing the peak of the breed­ing sea­son, but will swift­ly shed weight while guard­ing ter­ri­to­ries and fend­ing off rival males in their pur­suit to mate-guard females. The role of the bull in the Seal Bay colony is to rest and sleep as much as pos­si­ble, ensur­ing they are fit and healthy to pro­duce robust pups when females are in season.

  5. Seal Bay sea lion pups at 3 – 4 months old are microchipped, when­ev­er pos­si­ble, facil­i­tat­ing cru­cial data col­lec­tion by the South Aus­tralian Research and Devel­op­ment Insti­tute for the Aus­tralian Sea Lion Mon­i­tor­ing Pro­gram. Microchip­ping mon­i­tors the Seal Bay colony, pro­vid­ing a key under­stand­ing of their rela­tion­ships and track­ing mor­tal­i­ty. Ide­al­ly, microchip­ping will be the only instance in their lives where they come into con­tact with humans.

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

An up-close encounter

When vis­it­ing Seal Bay, you can embark on a self-guid­ed tour along the board­walk, or for an extra­or­di­nary expe­ri­ence, opt for a guid­ed tour to meet the local per­son­al­i­ties. Sea­soned guides lead you into the heart of the colony, detail­ing how these crea­tures spend their days — from hunt­ing to surf­ing and rest­ing. You’ll also gain insights into the species’ endan­gered sta­tus and the ongo­ing con­ser­va­tion efforts ded­i­cat­ed to their protection.

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 in Novem­ber 2023. 

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living