Falkland Islands will Release Stamps on Southern Sea Lion

Falkland Islands will release a set of 4 stamps on sea lion on 30th May 2011.The Southern sea lion (Otaria flavescens) is perhaps the archetypal sea lion in appearance. Males have a very large head with a well developed lion-like mane, making them the most lionesque of the eared seals. These sea lions are the most sexually dimorphic of the five sea lion species\"\" and size and weight varies considerably. Adult males are big animals which can reach up to 8 ft (2.6m) in length, 5ft (1.6m) in height and weigh up to 700lbs (320kg). Colour may vary from deep brown to mid reddish brown. Females are smaller and lighter in colour, varying from buff to light grey-brown. Pups are born black or dark brown before moulting to a more chocolate colour. All sea lions look very dark when wet.

The Southern sea lion is widely distributed throughout the Islands and is known to breed at 68 sites. Most of these are on offshore tussac islands. Breeding commences in December when the bulls establish territories, usually on rocky beaches and acquire a harem of 5-6 females who arrive to pup about three weeks later, the last of the pups being born in mid-January. Within two or three days of giving birth the females are mated. Sea lion mothers remain with their newborn pups for around a week before starting a routine of taking trips back into the sea for food before returning to nurse the pups. They will act aggressively to other females who come close to their pups.

Numbers have declined dramatically since the 1930’s when the Falklands held a large proportion of the world’s population of Southern sea lion. Over 80,000 pups were born in the Falklands each year to a population of approximately 380,000. Since then periodic surveys have confirmed a decline in numbers until the 1990’s. In 2003 a slight increase in the number of pups was recorded in comparison to 1995; however this still only represents 3.4% of the count obtained in the 1930s, meaning that the population remains alarmingly small.

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