Generally you should keep your distance from wild animals, especially in the case of marine mammals, as the failure to do so can result in a hefty fine. But there are those rare times when wild animals won't leave you be. In that case, having a camera rolling can make for some amazing scenes, like the above.
Sea lions and seals are pinnipeds, carnivorous mammals with fin-like flippers that come ashore to breed, give birth, and nurse their young. It's a group that also includes walruses and is more closely related to such land animals as bears, dogs, raccoons, and weasels (all belonging to the order Carnivora) than to cetaceans like whales and dolphins, which took the plunge millions of years earlier in evolutionary history.
Like all animals though, sometimes they're just looking for a free ride.
On February 8, Oceana and National Geographic launched an expedition to explore the waters off of the remote Desventuradas Islands more than 500 miles off the coast of Chile. By documenting marine life and habitat the team hopes to persuade the Chilean government to protect more than 60,000 miles surroundinig this archipelago. Below is an expedition journal entry from Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. Click here to view all Desventuradas Expedition blog posts on National Geographic's Explorers Journal.
19 February 2013
When we think of predators, our minds often picture large animals with sharp teeth and scary faces, animals that have evolved just to kill humans. Our collective memory makes us fearful of the night, and almost everyone has been startled by unknown noises in a dark forest. This fear has been engraved in our collective unconscious like carvings in a rock. When it comes to the ocean, many people still fear sharks (despite repeated evidence that sharks are the ones who should be scared of us) or deep alien creatures that hide in the darkness to attack unexpectedly.
The top predator at the Desventuradas is not the typical reef shark, or a grouper with a huge mouth able to swallow a diver. It is not a fearsome animal that kills at night either. The largest predator here is the Juan Fernández sea lion (Arctocephalus philippi), the cutest carnivore we have found in any of our Pristine Seas Expeditions to date. They spend much of the day hanging out on rocky platforms near the water. When we approach them, it’s like someone brought free candy to a school. The sea lions raise their heads, get indeed very excited, and drag their fat bellies from rock to rock until they jump in the water.
The Juan Fernández sea lion is the cutest carnivore we have found in any of our Pristine Expeditions to date. (Photo by Enric Sala)
Underwater, the sea lions become torpedoes of enormous grace and elegance. Their eyes are large as a Japanese cartoon character’s, and their looks pierce us as they swim very fast between us divers. After playing with our bubbles and checking us out very closely, they just hang out, their backsides on the surface and their heads hanging down like bats.
Drum roll, please: we’re excited to unveil our latest video starring actress and ocean lover, Aimee Teegarden of “Friday Night Lights.”
We traveled with Teegarden up the coast of Southern California, from La Jolla to Santa Barbara Island, filming a video about the need to protect the ocean’s threatened habitats.
Teegarden showed off her surfing skills and also free dove with sea lion pups in a gorgeous kelp forest.
“It’s amazing that hidden treasures like this exist all over the ocean – you just have to look for them. It’s really upsetting to think about an awesome place like the sea lion rookery being destroyed by destructive fishing, pollution, or anything else harmful,” said Teegarden. “This experience made it clear that we need to identify these unique and important areas in the ocean and do whatever we can to save them. I love that Oceana finds the special places like this and then fights to protect them.”
Happy World Oceans Day, everyone!
Whether you’re on the coast today or not, we hope you pause to recognize the beauty and bounty of the oceans. Starting today, we're asking all of you to take a pledge to protect the world's oceans -- but more on that later.
And now to the juicy stuff: this year’s Ocean Heroes!
More than 500 ocean activists were nominated, 12 were selected as finalists, and more than 12,000 of you voted. The results? This year’s adult ocean hero is Peter Wallerstein and the junior ocean hero is Sophi Bromenshenkel!
Peter Wallerstein is the program director at Marine Animal Rescue, a project of Friends of Animals, where he has spent the last 25 years rescuing marine mammal in Los Angeles County. He has personally rescued 3,000 marine mammals throughout his career, and also established a team of professional responders that humanely rescues hundreds of animals a year, including whales, dolphins, sea lions and seabirds.
Fittingly, Peter was out helping a stranded California sea lion when I called to give him the good news.
This is the fourth in a series of posts about this year’s Ocean Hero finalists.
For more than two decades, Peter Wallerstein has been rescuing marine animals on the coast of California.
In 1985 he founded the Whale Rescue Team, which is now part of Marine Animal Rescue (MAR), a project of Friends of Animals. Peter started a 24-hour hotline for citizens to report stranded or injured marine mammals, and he has personally rescued more than 4,000 marine mammals and birds in Southern California, from stranded dolphins to whales tangled in gillnets.
Thanks to Peter’s persistence, Los Angeles County now has the only professional marine mammal rescue team in the U.S. that conducts hundreds of rescues each year, working 24/7 if needed. In April he conducted 86 marine mammal rescues, 120 for the year so far.
Now Peter is working to address the lack of adequate care facilities for marine mammals. After a decade of work, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has authorized MAR to design, construct and operate a second marine mammal care facility in Los Angeles County.
As we told you last Friday, the ecologically rich region of Punta de Choros, Chile, was recently spared from the construction of a coal-fired power plant in a dramatic decision by President Sebastian Piñera.
The announcement was the culmination of hard work by our colleagues in Chile alongside local organizations, and immense grassroots pressure from Chileans.
So what, exactly, was at stake? Humboldt penguins, sea lions and blue whales, to name a few of the creatures that call the area home. But judging from your comments on last week’s post, many of you already know how incredible this place is.
Here is further photographic evidence, enjoy:
National Geographic has captured incredible footage of a sea lion battling a large octopus in Australia (spoiler alert: the sea lion prevails.) To get the footage, the hungry sea lion was equipped with a GPS tracker and a crittercam.
The project, led by South Australian Research and Development Institute, is helping researchers learn more about where and how sea lions feed, which will ultimately help in protecting key habitat for the creatures. Plus, it's just a really cool video. Check it out: