Like whales, elephant seals were also hunted for their oil and their numbers have struggled to recover. South Georgia provides one of their most important breeding areas and almost every beach has at least half a dozen or so females. The smell produced by a group all cuddled up together is quite unbelievable and if you stand downwind it's hard to stop your eyes watering.
Elephant seals get their name from the males who have a trunk-like nose when adult. Adult male elephant seals are solitary for much of the year, but compete violently with one another during the breeding season to gain as big a harem of adult females as possible.
The smelly, oily and very contented group of female elephant seals on the right regularly make use of the old whaling station hut for a wind-free communal nap. They are very trusting of humans, although people tend to avoid getting too close because of the mind blowingly strong fishy smell they exude.
Another common seal on and around South Georgia is the fur seal. This fur seal pup is sheltering behind some old ship propellers, probably waiting for it's mother to return with yet another meal. Fur seal numbers have boomed in the last decade or so. The sheer weight of numbers of these seals is threatening the fragile ecosystem of South Georgia. Streams and lakes are becoming polluted and other seals are finding their food supplies dwindling. It would be sad to see a return of culling, but at the present time this seems the only option to limit the damage their huge numbers are causing.
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Last updated 10:00 PM 19/06/01 email: