Five sea lion pups tagged

The birth of at least five sea lion pups on Otago's coast this summer is heartening, although their future is still tenuous, Sea Lion Trust chairman Steve Broni says.

The Department of Conservation tagged five pups, three males and two females, on Friday, on the coast from Smaills Beach to Warrington.

''While the numbers of our only endemic sea lion are increasing ... [they are] doing so very slowly and the species' future on the mainland remains tenuous, given the number of breeding females we haven't seen for quite a few years and the loss of three pups in the last three years,'' Mr Broni said.

This summer's births were two more pups than were discovered last year.

''We are heartened to have found five healthy pups thus far this season. While we'd have preferred them all to have been female, five pups is around what we'd expect, from what we know of the local population.''

Given sea lions were quite secretive about where they gave birth and secluded themselves, it was possible there might be other pups to be discovered on beaches yet to be searched by trust members or Doc.

There had also been a sighting of a pup in the Catlins.

It would be tagged if found.

Doc conservation services manager David Agnew said two of the births this year were from 4-year-old mothers having their first pup, which was significant.

''It's promising having two new mothers so there could be more out there.''

Generally, if a female was born on Otago's coast, she would return there to breed.

The tags enabled the pups to be monitored as they grew up, giving Doc data on their survival.

As the pups grew, their mothers moved them around more, so they would become more visible on the area's beaches.

Mr Broni said dog owners needed to be vigilant when walking their dogs and keep an eye out for any sign of a sea lion or sea lion tracks.

''They should pop their dog on the lead until well past that area of the beach.''

Please contact Doc or email to report any sightings of pups and female (pale coloured) sea lions.

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