Rediscovering Falklands Ocean Sentinels

Alastair Baylis

We will undertake an archipelago-wide census to determine the current population size and conservation status of southern sea lions breeding at the Falkland Islands.

©Rachael Orben.

©Rachael Orben.

The Falkland Islands population of southern sea lions (Otaria flavescens) has declined by 97%, from the largest population in the world in the 1930's (pup production of ~ 80,000) to now the smallest population (less than 3000 pups p.a.). Currently, we lack even the basic ecological information necessary to adequately conserve and manage the Falklands sea lion population and to mitigate potential impediments to population recovery. The most recent population census in 2003 revealed that while the number of pups at some breeding colonies had increased, other breeding colonies remained stable or continued to decline. Therefore, regular and ongoing population monitoring is core to conservation management.

Funding from The Rufford Foundation will be used to undertake an archipelago-wide census of southern sea lions breeding at the Falkland Islands. We will compare the results of the 2014 census with earlier censuses (1932, 1965, 1995 and 2003) to assess the population trend and the current conservation status of sea lions. Project findings will be made available to government and local conservation organisations to facilitate the integration of the data into existing conservation policies and species action plans. The project is also supported by funding from the Falkland Islands Government, Sea Word and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and the Shackleton Scholarship Fund.

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