18 Oct 2022


On the lookout for your new favourite animal? Meet the Australian sea lion! 

With long whiskers, clumsy flippers and a round belly, what’s not to love about these native seals?

But there's more to this marine mammal than meets the eye. Here are 8 interesting facts about the Australian sea lion:

1. They’re Australia’s only native seal.

From the adorable fur seal to the unusual elephant seal, flipper-footed mammals of all shapes and sizes can be found in Australian waters. You may therefore be surprised to learn that out of all the subspecies living on our coastlines, the Australian sea lion is the only seal native to our country. They’re found along the nation’s southern and western coastlines, with population strongholds ranging from SA beaches to remote islands off WA.

An Australian sea lion mother and pup on Lilliput Island= South Australia
© Simon Goldsworthy (SARDI)

2. They’re also the rarest seal in Australia.

It’s a bitter reality that Australia’s only native seal is also the rarest species found in our oceans. The Australian sea lion is Endangered to extinction, and are faced with a growing number of threats, to the point where it is estimated there are only 6,500 known Australian sea lions remaining in the wild.

3. They have a looong breeding cycle.

Australian sea lions have one of the longest breeding cycles of any marine mammal. The mating season only occurs once every 18 months, followed by the gestation period, which is another 18 months. The females will then spend another year and a half teaching their pup how to find food and fend for themselves. This long parenting process is essential for pups to reach maturity, but the Australian sea lions' slow reproductive rate unfortunately doesn’t help their dwindling population numbers. 

4. Female Australian sea lions are the ultimate homebodies.

While male Australian sea lions travel hundreds of kilometres during the breeding season, females will rarely ever move from the colony into which they were born. Other than foraging for food, a female Australian sea lion’s instinct is to stay put and wait for the males to come to her to breed. In fact, females will only mate and rear young at the same breeding location as they were born.

5. Male Australian sea lions live in bachelor pads.

Unlike the females who prefer to stick close to home, male Australian sea lions spend their lives travelling the ocean far and wide, searching for food and partners with which to mate. Some males seek out bachelor colonies where they congregate to live together during the non-breeding season.

6. They’re seafood connoisseurs.

They may be picky about where they live, but the Australian sea lion is definitely not a fussy eater. These bulky marine mammals are experts at seeking the juiciest prey to eat, which explains why they can weigh up to 250kg! They’ve been recorded diving up to 150m while foraging and are known to eat everything from fish and squid to small sharks and even seagulls.

Australian sea lion underwater near Neptune Islands= South Australia
© Shutterstock / wildestanimal / WWF

7. Sadly, the future of the Australian sea lion is uncertain.

Commercial fishing practices and gill nets are the leading threats facing the survival of this iconic marine mammal. Seals can become entangled and drown in gill nets, and an estimated 350 Australian sea lions are caught as bycatch in South Australia each breeding season. In addition, WWF’s 2022 Living Planet Report found the number of pups born each year has reduced by a shocking 64%. The survival of Australia’s only native seal depends on us taking action now to protect and safeguard their future.

8. Australian sea lion numbers can recover with your help.

You can help make a difference for the future of iconic wildlife, including the Australian sea lion. With your support, we can urge our leaders to implement stronger nature laws to protect animals like the Australian sea lion and the places they call home.

Want to get involved? Here’s how you can help.

  • Sign the petition and call on the Australian Government to commit to stronger protections for our wildlife and the wild places they call home.
  • Discover if threatened animals need protection in your local area by using WWF’s My Backyard tool, and find out how well they’re being cared for.
  • Tune in to Scat Chat with WWF to learn about the weird and wonderful ways that animal scat is being used to help wildlife conservation.
  • Find out more about how you can get involved to help regenerate Australia’s wildlife.