Auckland Islands: New Zealand Sea Lions

The Sandy Bay beach on the Enderby Island is packed almost to the max with New Zealand sea lions, the rarest sea lions on the world. The entire global population is only about 2000 individuals and nearly 99% of breeding occurs here on the Auckland Island at three rookeries, of which Sandy Bay is second largest. Male sea lions are massive animals weighing up to 450kg/1000lb, while females are much smaller at only 90-150kg/200-300lb on average. Males secure beach spots before females arrive and then guard their harems of 10-30 females and breeding with them, while the young or otherwise unlucky males lounge on the outskirts of the beach. Occasionally they sneak into the harems for a quickie sex. Pups are born tiny weighing only a few kilograms, but they rapidly gain weight. Pups lie all around the beach in “kindergarten” groups. Mortality is substantial as massive males often trample on them and skua predator birds kill the smallest ones. While the pup production seems to be stable year to year, the overall sea lion numbers continue to decline. Being on the Sandy Bay beach, I could probably estimate that there were around 300-400 animals, which is about 15-20% of the entire global population!