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The size and status of the population of southern sea lions Otaria flavescens in the Falkland Islands

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David Thompson, I Strange, M Riddy, Callan David Duck

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Pup production of southern sea lions in the Falkland Islands was estimated to be 80,550 (total population ca. 380,000) in 1937, but by 1965 it had fallen to around 6000; a 93% reduction in under 30 years. We describe the results of an aerial survey of part of the breeding population in 1990 and comprehensive ground counts of the entire population in 1995 and 2003. Results indicate that the decline continued. In 1995, 63 breeding and 42 non-breeding groups were found. Pup production was estimated at 2034 pups; less than 2.7% of the 1930s estimate. All known and potential sites were revisited in 2003. 2747 pups were counted at 68 breeding sites, seven of which were new since 1995. Results indicate that between 1965 and 1990 the population reached a minimum of less than 1.5% of the 1937 population. Since then, pup production has increased at a rate of 8.5% p.a. between 1990 and 1995 and at 3.8% p.a. between 1995 and 2003.

The Falklands' trajectory is similar to that of the adjacent Argentinian population. The causes of these declines are not clear. Around 44,000 sea lions were killed in the Falklands between 1935 and 1962, more than 500,000 were taken in Argentina in the same period. We present the results of a simple population model which suggests that, if sea lions migrated between the two areas, the combined hunt may explain the initial decline in the Falklands population. However, the continued decline after 1965 is as yet unexplained. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-367
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2005

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