Australian Sea-Lion

Scientific Name: Neophoca cinerea

Species Population-

There are currently approximately 10,000 Australian Sea-lions left in the world.

Habitat

Differences

The Australian Sea-lions biome is sandy or rocky beaches and ocean waters. This gives them plenty of room to live. Their enclosure at the zoo is very restricting as it is much smaller than their biome in the wild. The water in their zoo enclosures is much shallower compared to the oceans in the wild. In their zoo habitat, Australian Sea-lion's have access to medical intervention from vets, therefore if they become sick or injured they have more of a chance of recovery. In their biome, if they become sick or injured they must fend for themselves and hope that naturally they recover.

Similarities

Zoos try their best to replicate an animal's habitats in the wild when building their enclosures. Although there is no way they can completely replicate the oceans that the Australian Sea-lions live in, there are some similarities between their zoo habitat and wild habitat. Both habitats have salt water, where the sea-lions have enough room to comfortably swim around. Both habitats also have areas of which are not underwater, as the Australian Sea-lion does not spend all of its time underwater.

Diet

At the zoo, keepers make sure that the sea-lions are getting their correct requirements of food and nutrients. They are fed a wide variety of fish and crustaceans. In their habitats in the wild, Australian Sea-lions must hunt for their own food meaning they may not always get their required amount of food and nutrients. They hunt for fish, squid, crustaceans, octopus, cuttlefish and small sharks, as well as the occasional penguin or sea bird.

Adaptations/Features

  • Australian Sea-lions have flippers and streamlined bodies to help them move quickly and easily. Their hind limbs will move up and down propelling them forward, in a similar way to a dolphin’s tail. These features mean they are very fast swimmers which allows them to efficiently hunt their prey as they can “surprise attack” them and are also able to quickly escape predators.
  • They are able to use their front flippers to prop themselves up and use their back flippers to assist them to ‘walk’ on land. In the water their back flippers allow them to steer. These features allow Australian Sea-lions to be quite agile both on land and in the water.
  • Australian Sea-lions also have a very thick neck and powerful shoulders which allows them to protect themselves from predators.
  • They have two layers of fur and a thick layer of fat which allows them to keep warm in the cold water.
  • They can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes and can dive up to 300 metres. This allows them to hunt for food for long periods of time and from the sea floor. These adaptations differ when Australian Sea-lions live in a zoo habitat as there is no need for them to dive to such depths and stay underwater for such a long period of time.
  • They are very social animals and gather in large groups of 10-15. This behavioural adaptation differs when Australian Sea-lion are in zoo habitats compared to their habitats in the wild as in their zoo enclosures there aren't many other sea-lions to gather in groups with. Most zoo enclosures generally only house up to 6 sea-lions at a time.
  • Males will defend their territories with a variety of sounds including growling and barking, often fighting with rival males. This behavioural adaptation changes when Australian Sea-lions are in zoo habitats compared to their habitats in the wild as in their zoo enclosures there are not normally many other sea-lions or animals to defend their territory from.


Human Activity & Why They Are Endangered

Australian-Sea lions are at threat, due to many forms of human impact.

During the last century they were hunted for their fur. They also often become entangled in fishing nets, get struck by boats or are disturbed by humans. Unsustainable fisheries also are a big threat for Australian Sea-lions. This is because they compete directly with it for food. Due to humans taking too many fish from the sea, the sea-lions are suffering as they don’t have enough to eat. They are also at threat due to marine pollution. Pollution such as rubbish and oil spills are contaminating the ocean causing the amount of Australian Sea-lions to deplete.

In 2008 Australian Sea-lions were listed as an endangered species due to their already small population continuing to decline. They are now the rarest sea-lion in the world and the only seal species found on Australian coastlines and nowhere else, therefore we must stop these threats otherwise Australian Sea-lions will eventually become extinct.

Steps Taken To Preserve The Species

One step being taken to preserve Australian Sea-lions are several conservation and breeding programs running at zoos to stop them from reaching extinction. At Taronga Zoo they have sea-lion shows that focus on the natural history of Australian Sea-lions and issues such as marine pollution and overfishing. This raises awareness for us to stop negatively impacting our marine life. It also brings into focus the ways we can take responsibility and start to look after our animals, especially our endangered species, like the Australian Sea-lion.

Taronga Zoo's Australian Marine Mammal Research Centre studies the Australian Sea-lion and other species and helps to preserve them by devising strategies that allow them to continue to be around for many years to come.

Taronga Zoo also have a wildlife hospital that helps to preserve the Australian Sea-lions by helping to care for Australian Sea-lions that have been affected by oil spills or other forms of human impact and assist them to later be able to be released into the wild.

The Australian Sea-lion is given special protection by the Australian State and Commonwealth Government legislation and is listed as rare by the World Conservation Union. This brings awareness to the fact that it is an endangered species and helps to bring people's attention to the ways that they can help to protect its species from further depletion by being more careful to not pollute our waters and to stop overfishing.

Australian Sea-lions are also protected by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. This act makes it an "offence to kill, injure, take, trade, keep or move a marine species on Australian Government land or in Commonwealth water without a permit."

Bibliography

Australian Sea-lion | Taronga. 2015. Australian Sea-lion | Taronga. [ONLINE] Available at: https://taronga.org.au/animal/australian-sea-lion. [Accessed 14 November 2015].

Australian Sea-lion | Taronga. 2015. Australian Sea-lion | Taronga. [ONLINE] Available at: https://taronga.org.au/animals-conservation/breeding-programs/ambassador-species/australian-sea-lion. [Accessed 14 November 2015].

Sea-Lion Pup | Taronga. 2015. Sea-Lion Pup | Taronga. [ONLINE] Available at: https://taronga.org.au/media/media-release/tue-2009-04-07-2200/sea-lion-pup. [Accessed 14 November 2015].

Seals and Sea Lions - Marine Species Conservation in Australia. 2015. Seals and Sea Lions - Marine Species Conservation in Australia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/marine/marine-species/seals-and-sea-lions. [Accessed 16 November 2015].

Australian Sea Lions: Structural and Behavioural Adaptations. 2015. Australian Sea Lions: Structural and Behavioural Adaptations. [ONLINE] Available at: http://peyton-asl.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/structural-and-behavioural-adaptations.html. [Accessed 16 November 2015].

Sea Lion Facts. 2015. Sea Lion Facts. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.penguinisland.com.au/sea-lion-facts.html#.VklpOMu72S8. [Accessed 16 November 2015].

EndFragment

Seals and Sea Lions - Marine Species Conservation in Australia. 2015. Seals and Sea Lions - Marine Species Conservation in Australia. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.environment.gov.au/marine/marine-species/seals-and-sea-lions. [Accessed 17 November 2015].

Australian Sea-lion | Taronga. 2015. Australian Sea-lion | Taronga. [ONLINE] Available at: https://taronga.org.au/animals-conservation/breeding-programs/ambassador-species/australian-sea-lion. [Accessed 17 November 2015].