A long-nosed fur seal that was tagged in Tasmanian as a pup has turned up in Victoria 25 years later, causing a rethink about how long the animals survive in the wild.
The male fur seal, born on Maatsuyker Island off the south coast of Tassie, was tagged with a distinctive* “830” marking on its right rump* in 1996.
The marking recently caught the attention of Victorian wildlife officers who investigated where the seal was from.
“We were excited to respond to this call and gain important updated information from research activities conducted more than 20 years ago,” said Tasmanian environment department marine biologist Sam Thalmann.
“Previously thought to reach a maximum age of 19, this sighting of the fur seal 25 years after it was marked as a pup provides exciting new knowledge into the maximum lifespan for wild fur seals in Australia.”
Mr Thalmann said the seal was in surprisingly good condition.
“We see a lot of older male fur seals that are past their prime* and haul out along the Tasmanian coast as they reach their end of life, but this seal does not fit in this category,” he said.
“This seal appears to be in good physical condition and may continue to prosper* for years to come.”
Long-nosed fur seals are found around the coasts of southeastern Australia, southern NSW and New Zealand.
The Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment said long-nosed fur seals were hunted to near extinction for the fur trade in the 1800s.
But in 1987 the species recolonised* Tasmanian waters and formed a breeding colony on Maatsuyker Island, about 10km off the state’s south coast.
It said less than 100 pups were born annually* when the seal was marked.
The species is now protected and listed as rare under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act*.
FUR SEAL FACTS
- Seals can often be seen floating in the water with their flippers in the air. This behaviour is called “sailing” or “jug handling” and helps to regulate* their body temperature.
- Seals moult* each year.
- Pups are vulnerable* to severe storms.
- Seals are preyed upon by great white sharks and killer whales.
- Fur seals are also known as eared seals due to their visible ears.
- Seals eat fish, squid, lobster and cuttlefish.
- Seals breed and rest on land, and also chill out on structures such as beacons and oil platforms at sea.
- Seals use their powerful front flippers to move swiftly and gracefully through the water, but can also be quite agile* on land, walking on all four flippers.
- distinctive: a feature or quality that makes something different to other things
- rump: the back part of an animal’s body
- past their prime: at an age where they are not at their best or most powerful
- haul out: come out of the water to spend time on land
- prosper: do well
- recolonised: settled or set up home again
- annually: each year
- act: a written law passed by parliament
- regulate: control
- moult: shed fur to make way for new growth
- vulnerable: at risk of being harmed
- agile: able to move quickly and easily
- What is the name of the island where the fur seal was born?
- How long ago was the fur seal tagged?
- What marking was he tagged with?
- How long are fur seals expected to live in the wild?
- Why were fur seals almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Wildlife information board
If you’ve ever been for a hike through a national park or along the coastline, you’ve probably seen the large signage boards that are erected by authorities to inform the public about the area and the plants and animals that live there.
Design an information board that could be displayed in an area where long-nosed fur seals are found, so that people who spot the animals can learn more about them.
Think about what is included on examples you have seen before and what information you think people would find important or interesting. Include words and graphics on your board design.
Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English
The news story tells us what long-nosed fur seals eat and what eats them. Use this information to draw a picture of a food chain. Can you add any other prey or predators to this food chain to build a more detailed chain?
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science
Find a bland sentence from the article to up-level. Can you add more detail and description? Can you replace any “said” words with more specific synonyms?
Have you outdone yourself and used some really great vocabulary throughout your writing? Firstly, well done. Secondly, let’s ensure everyone can understand it by adding a glossary of terms. Pick three of your wow words and create a glossary for each word to explain what it means.