South Georgia Wildlife

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Much of the wildlife of South Georgia is transient, arriving for the birthing and breeding season and then departing. The main residents on the island are the fur seal and elephant seal. These two breeds are quite different in both size and appearance.

The Southern Fur Seal was hunted almost to the point of extinction during the first sealing era, their pelts being a very vaulable commodity. Numbers appear to be increasing. During my stay there in 1979 I saw only one in the immediate area and in 1992 during a brief visit I found at least five. I have since read that a pup was born in that same area during the last season. There are many breeding grounds around the island for this seal and numbers on the island are said to be in the region of 1.5 million; about 96% of the world population.

 

The fur seal travels on land using its fore and hind flippers. It is able to get up quite a speed. Cute they may look, but combine the speed with some ferocious looking teeth and one does not hang around to argue. One of our ornithologists received several stitches in his arm having been bitten by a bull seal, and on another occasion when I came across one lying in the tussock grass I quickly found another route. This picture shows a young fur seal.
 
Picture courtesy of Juanita and Henry Zeinstra of Michigan U.S.A.