Antarctic Fur Seal (Arctocephalus gazella)

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Antarctic seals

Antarctic seals

The rest of the fur seal story is much happier. In 1931 a scientific expedition discovered a small breeding colony of a few hundred on Bird Island. The decline of the fur seal coincided with the rise of whaling. Baleen whales and fur seals both feed on the same food - krill. As the whales were slaughtered in ever increasing numbers so there was ever more krill available for the fur seals to feed on.

By the end of the 1950's the world population stood at about 5 000, by 1976 on South Georgia alone it had reached 100 000. In 1993 the estimated population was around 1.5 million with more and more seals being found further away from South Georgia and beginning to breed further afield too. The population in 2000 was estimated to be around 4 million though this is based on projected figures from 1993. So altogether this is a story of a remarkable come-back almost from the brink of extinction to one of a very large and healthy population of these wonderful creatures.

Photo; © Paul Ward