East London Museum scientists Phil Whittington and Kevin Cole took a trip up the coast north of East London today to document a seal haul-out at a secluded bay. The yearling Southern Elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) measured about 2m and seemed relaxed having settled into the new environment six days ago.
Immature seals are known to move north from the subantarctic islands (on which they breed) to the coasts of Uruguay, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Population estimates in the 1990’s was around 640 000. They are highly sociable on land with polygynous bulls (max. length 6.4m) controlling up to 100 cows.
There is great sexual variation and the females do not get bigger than about 4m and do not have a inflatable proboscis.
This is the second record of an elephant seal in our area – the last being a adult bull measuring 4.2m which hauled-out at Cape Henderson (February 2008).
Today’s seal will be monitored and may be recuperating from exhaustive travels. Weight loss is expected and if ill the situation will be re-assessed.
An update will be posted in the coming week. Siani Tinley of the East London Aquarium is thanked for reporting the seal to the museum. Land-owners are also thanked for access to the site through private property.
This record has been sent through to Dr Greg Hofmeyr, Curator of Marine Mammals, at Bayworld Museum (Port Elizabeth).