Tony Wu is an award-winning professional underwater photographer and he loves pinnipeds! He says it is hard not to. For this Full Frame feature he has chosen his images of an Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) colony that resides on a small island in Wester Australia called Carnac Island. He writes:
“It is the only colony of sea lions in the world, as far as I know, that comprises only males. Why there are only boys and no girls is a mystery. Don’t fret though. At the appropriate time, males of breeding age head over to nearby colonies to strut their stuff to impress (or not, as the case may be) females of their species.
The sea lions come here to rest after spending extended periods at sea foraging for food. As such, they sleep a lot, occasionally raising their heads for a brief look around. From time to time, they head into the water to play, socialize, and probably cool off. The heat from the southern hemisphere sun can be intense during the mid-day, so blubber-packing animals must get really, really hot.
I’ve visited this colony several times. While it’s always wonderful to see and play among the inquisitive and interactive pinnipeds, there is a dark side too.
Australian sea lions are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. They are protected under both the South Australia National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 and the Western Australia Wildlife Conservation Notice 2003. In addition, they are listed as Vulnerable under the Australia Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. They are endemic to Western Australian and South Australia, with total population estimates placing their numbers between 8,000 to 12,000 individuals, on the decline.
Despite the obvious need for concern, a plethora of local boaters visit this small island each weekend to blast loud music, kick sand at the sea lions, throw object at them, pose small children in front of large bulls for snapshots, and much worse. For full effect, a significant proportion of such visitors are inebriated during their weekend jaunts. Over the years, local authorities (currently under the auspices of the Department of Environment and Conservation) have done very little to address this situation.
Doesn’t seem right, does it?”
For more of Tony’s photos, stories and trip information, please see his blog.