The rest of the year is spent feeding at sea, where they rest by floating at the surface and feed by diving to significant depths in search of large fishes and squids. Enjoy their visits, but remember they are wild animals, and should be respected as such. Restricted to subpolar and polar waters of the southern hemisphere, Order Pinnipedia (seals, sea lions, and relatives), Family Phocidae (true seals). Since that time, populations have rebounded nicely, and the southern elephant seal is considered a species of least concern. You can use the images and descriptions to find out which species of seal or sea lion you observed. At sea, they spend about 90% of their time underwater. See New Zealand fur seals for information on when to call us for that species.
After breeding or moulting, southern elephant seals migrate south to Antarctica to feed on squid and fish at the edge of the sea-ice. Leopard seals occasionally attack and kill pups, and killer whales may prey on pups and older seals, though neither are believed to have any significant affect on the population.
To stay underwater so long, southern elephant seals exhale before diving to get gases out of their bodies. During the 19th to the early 20th centuries, following the decimation of the fur seal population, the sealing industry on sub-Antarctic islands turned to the exploitation of southern elephant seals as a source of oil. Approximately 260,000 bull elephant seals were harvested from 1910 - 1965. Their muscles are also used to store oxygen. the population is returning to pre-sealing levels after having recovered to abnormally high levels. Females are much, much smaller, and the males’ large size is the result of their territoriality and their habit of developing harems of several females with which they have sole mating rights. These two species get their name from the trunk-like nose that males develop as they become sexually mature.
Dives during the day tend to be much deeper than at night.
Elephant seals feed on animals such as squid, cuttlefish and large fish, including sharks. We're also working with researchers from other countries to gather information on the number of seal pups produced each year and to work out what elephant seals eat in the New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands.
A great way to get involved in protecting #oceans: Join Oceana as a Wavemaker & sound off on important issues! Four distinct populations have been identified in the Southern Ocean.
They only come to shore to reproduce and to molt their fur.
Only the largest two or three males breed in a given year.
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