On the shores of Amsterdam Island in the French southern lands, four scientists weave between subantarctic fur seals. Their goal: to chip the sea lions to collect data on the colony.
This is the breed that works best in Amsterdam. “The population continues to grow, which is very encouraging for a species that has practically disappeared from the island,” explains Marie Fredin. The colony has recovered after more than a century of intensive hunting.
After intensive exploitation since the end of the 18th century, this species, found in only three parts of the world, is thought to be extinct on the island of Amsterdam. A few individuals had to survive and “they came back little by little”, commented Marie Fredin. In 2012, the number of young sea lions on the island was estimated at nearly 30,000.
‘You have to have sensitivity and respect for the animal,’ explains Marie Fredin, delicately holding a young woman while avoiding a bite. ‘The aim is to chip in a hundred people, including the thirty mothers who have already ringed. A pet microchip does not last until 10 months. For now, they are still very small,” he underlines.
Hundreds of births
It is necessary to measure the small sea lion that does not let itself. On a homemade board, it is 63 cm for 5.7 kg. According to Ms. Freed, this should be between five and seven days. ‘We can estimate their age by looking at the size of the umbilical cord scar,’ he explains.
Once the fleas are laid, ‘we go there every day to observe for the first two months, check which mothers are there and see how often the female returns to feed her cubs. After that there is regular monitoring to weigh and measure the youth every month.
“We counted 500 births” in the previous season of 2021-2022, which is a record”, underlines Marie Friedin again. This season, scientists have already identified 330, but she is happy that ‘we haven’t reached the peak yet’.
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