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The South African sea lion, easily recognised by its ear flaps set at right angles to its head. It is also known as the Fur Seal. As with all sea lion species, the male is much larger than the female.
This is the largest of the 8 species in the Fur Seal sub-family. As with most sea lions, there is significant sexual dimorphism. The male is between 2 and 2.3 m long and weighs on average 250 kg. The female is between 1.2 and 1.6 m long and weighs on average 60 kg. Pups measure between 60 and 70 cm at birth with a weight of 6 kg. Lifespan is about 20 years. Females frequently live longer than males.
South African sea lions live along the southern and southwestern coasts of South Africa. Their range extends up to Angola.
Colonies live on rocky shorelines, reefs, pebble or sand beaches.
Like all sea lion species, the South African sea lion is polygamous. The harem usually consists of one male and nine females. The male is the first to arrive at the breeding site. He defends his territory using vocalisations, postures and battles. The females give birth 1 to 2 days after their arrival in the colony. Eight to nine days after giving birth to their single pup, they ovulate, mate and go to sea for their first hunting session. They will stay at sea between 2 and 5 days. They then return to land for 1 to 2 days to nurse their young. They will alternate these two activities for between 10 and 12 months, at which time the pup will be weaned. During their absence, the pups gather in a nursery, watched over by one or more of the harem's females who have remained on land.
They are opportunistic hunters of a wide variety of prey whether close to the coast or in the open sea. They consume fish, cephalopods and crustaceans.
The killer whale and the white shark. On land, it is the jackal and hyena that represent a risk to the pups.
The South African sea lion suffered great losses in the 19th century due to being hunted for their fur. Thanks to the protection measures put in place in South Africa in 1990, there the species has been able to regain a population comparable to the one it had before, which is not the case in Namibia where hunting continues. Other current threats are conflicts of interest with local fishermen, accidental entanglement in nets, pollution and tourism.
Consume fish from eco-responsible fishing.
Fur sea lion or Fur seal???
In English, the South African sea lion is sometimes called the Fur Seal. This name is of course confusing as it refers to them as 'seals', not 'sea lions'. However, the Arctocephalus sub-family belongs to the sea lion family! These are animals that have small external ear flaps and use their front flippers to move both in and out of the water. In France, the term "phoque à fourrure" (fur seal) was used for a long time, but was finally abandoned and replaced by the less confusing term "otarie à fourrure" (fur sea lion). This proves once again the usefulness of a Latin name adopted by all nationalities to ensure that we are all talking about the same species...