Australian Sea-Lion, Kangaroo Island
The Australian Sea-lion is one of the rarest seals in the world, decimated by hunting in the 19th century as part of the thriving fur trade. Seal Bay Conservation Park is home to the third largest breeding colony of this species in the world, accounting for around five percent of the world’s total. The Australian Sea-lion is endangered with a population that is declining both internationally and nationally. The Seal Bay colony is a very special colony, and its protection is critical.
Australian Sea Lion Facts
Australian Sea-lions are one of the few ‘eared’ seal species, with external ears. Also known for their ability to ‘walk’ on land, using their front flippers to hold themselves up and their back flippers to help them ‘walk’ on land.
Females and young adults tend to have creamy-coloured bellies and a silver coloured back. Adult males or ‘bulls’ are dark brown all over with a creamy white-yellow mane around their heads and neck. Breeding season can get hectic with often intense and aggressive battles between large fully grown, 250-kilogram bulls battling it out to defend their territory. Males fight each other from a very young age to establish their individual positions in the colony hierarchy, it is not unusual to see juveniles play fighting on the beach and as they mature young sub-adult males start to get more serious in their challenge for territory.
The Australian Sea-lion is carnivorous, opportunistically feeding on fish, squid, cuttlefish, octopus, and small crabs. With an incredible ability to dive between 80 – 275 metres, they generally fish alone, consuming up to 18 kilograms of fish over three days before returning to Seal Bay to rest.
Australian Sea-lions generally live in coastal habitats including exposed islands and reefs, rocky terrain, sandy beaches, and vegetated fore dunes and swales. They also use caves and deep cliff overhangs as haul-out sites for resting or breeding.
Where to find them
At the aptly named Seal Bay Conservation Park you can view the resident colony of Australian Sea-lions basking on the white sandy beach in between fishing trips to the continental shelf. As one of the rarest species in the world, Seal Bay is home to about five percent of the world's total population and is the third largest colony in existence. The beaches and bays of Seal Bay Conservation Park provide an ideal home for endangered Australian Sea-lions and a place to safely rest, play and raise their young. When is the best time to visit Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island? It is all year round, you will want to stop and watch them for hours frolicking on the beach, swimming back into shore, or lazing under the boardwalk just below you.
How to watch them
On the white sandy beach, sand dunes and coves of Seal Bay is the resident population of around 800 Australian sea-lions. Young pups and juvenile sea-lions play on the beach and in the dunes amongst adults who are most often resting on the beach after around three days at sea fishing. Seal Bay has been home to this resident population for thousands of years, now providing important protection for the population and offers an exceptional nature-based visitor experience.
At this popular tourism destination, you can walk amongst the heart of the Sea-lion colony with an experienced guide, learning about this endangered species and many other coastal inhabitants. There is also a self-guided, wheelchair accessible boardwalk meandering through the dunes to several viewing platforms, where you can set your own pace and watch these playful creatures go about their day-today business.
Did you know?
The Australian Sea-lion breeding season is approximately every 18 months. There is not a designated regular breeding season and even colonies across the world breed at different times of the year, yet they all have an approximate 18-month cycle.
Raising a seal pup is an intensive exercise for Australian Sea-lions, with pups requiring milk for at least 18 months, and then the female spends an additional 18 months teaching her pup the art of fishing and catching their own food. Females will only breed in the colony where they were born!