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Dolphin Marine Conservation Park

Seal in Coffs Harbour

Understanding the endangered Australian sea lion

Dolphin Marine Magic has been working on a long-term
project with Macquarie University, funded in part by Taronga Conservation
Society Australia, to help manage and protect endangered Australian sea lions
in the wild.
PhD candidate Monique Ladds, a member of the marine predator
research group at Macquarie University, working under the direction of Prof.
Rob Harcourt, has been collecting data on the metabolic rate of the Australian sea
lions at DMM over the last 2 years. The information collected from this
research will be used to calculate the amount of energy and food required to
support wild seal populations which will then allow better management of fish
stocks near endangered sea lion colonies.
In order to participate in the study, a number of seals at
DMM were trained hold their breath and swim laps underwater for a
pre-determined time before surfacing to breathe inside a perspex “bubble” or
flume. Once inside the flume, Ms Ladds collects data on the oxygen consumption of
the seals and which is used to calculate the metabolic rate of both active and
resting seals. Ms Ladds is now collecting data periodically to see if there is
any seasonal variation in the sea lion’s metabolic rate.
“This research is all a part of DMM’s commitment to helping
conserve marine life in the wild,” said DMM Manager of Life Sciences. “It is
just one of a number of studies in which we have assisted Australian
universities over the last two years; another included helping researchers
identify Australian sea lions by their whisker patterns so they would no longer
need to be caught and tagged in the wild for identification purposes.”
Ms Ladds said “Understanding the energetics of endangered
wildlife helps us to better understand the needs of the animals and work with
fisheries to ensure that these needs are met. Currently Australian sea lions
are listed as endangered, and to fully understand why we need to understand all
aspects of their life history, including their physiology. By investigating
captive sea lions of differing ages and sexes we are able to identify which
groups may be the most vulnerable to changing oceans while leaving the already
stressed populations unperturbed.”This research is a part DMM’s ongoing commitment to
conservation which includes the rehabilitation of sick and injured marine life,
school and community education and conservation programs and assisting with university
research studies. 

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