Their inexplicable disappearance has made conversationalists work overtime to find ways to increase their numbers and get them off the endangered animals list.
Their territories range far and wide in both the hemispheres and in all waters except the Atlantic ocean.
They are commonly known as the 'Stellar sea lions', and are scientifically known as Eumetopias jubatus. They form a part of the Otaridae family, which is a collective grouping of what are known as 'eared seals'.
The genus includes any of their 7 species listed under the group of 'modern pinnipeds'. Pinnipeds are mammals with external ear flaps and long front flippers. They are amphibious and are at equal ease both in the water and on land.
Some awesome facts about them are that they can dive to the depths of around 1000 feet despite their bulk. They can also hold their breath under water for 10 to 20 minutes, as they have the ability to slow their heart rates whenever needed.
The males and females weigh 907 kg (2000 lbs) and 272 kg (600 lbs) respectively, on an average. These marine mammals can grow to about 7 to 10 feet in length. Under zoological conditions, their life spans extend to 20 - 30 years, but in the wild, they only survive to about 10 or 15 years.
Their diet varies according to the geographical region as well as seasonal change. They are voracious eaters, and sometimes, they even eat their own kids.
Social Life and Reproduction Cycles
Every year in spring, these animals gather in large numbers at their breeding sites, known as rookeries. Here, the females (which arrive later than the males) are herded into male territory by sea lions. Harems of about 15 or more females are thus formed, and it is here that they give birth to one offspring (that was conceived during the last cycle).
Pups remain with their mothers for about a year, after which the 'yearlings' form playgroups for mock battles and play. The pups are initially black in color, but molt their coats to light brown ones by the end of their second year.
Male pups mature between 3 to 8 years but are unable to hold territory until they are 10 years old. While the others return to the rookeries each year, male pups do not return until they are 2 years old. Even then, these bachelors are isolated till they are large enough to compete for their territories. The male species are polygamous.
Their rookeries are normally unhygienic and stinky, as females rarely go underwater for defecation. Infestation by parasites could be a reason for high pup mortality.
Their natural predators - killer whales, sharks, polar bears, coyotes, and wolves, are also responsible for a fall in their numbers. A major chunk of the blame though, goes to man. Plastic pollution, oil spills, fishing nets, etc are a threat to them. Apart from these, there is always disease and environmental change.
If nothing is done, our children might never know about them. We can wake up now while there is still time. A first thing anyone who cares can do, is to do away with the fur accessories, meat, and oils of this animal. Isn't it a small price to pay to save a whole breed of these giants?