Two-tonne teenager takes a load off at Sorrento
A sub-Antarctic elephant seal takes a break at Sorrento beach. Photo: Courtesy, Department of Parks and Wildlife Department of Parks and Wildlife advice is to not get too close to the animal. Photo: Courtesy, Department of Parks and Wildlife
Sorrento beach is a play space for humans of every size and shape, but on Wednesday we were forced to share the sand with a three-and-a-half metre, two tonne teenager as a sub-adult elephant seal decided to take a load off.
Department of Parks and Wildlife officer Matt Swan said the department received the first call from the public at about 5am, with a description of a sea lion on the beach, however as the day edged closer to 9am the calls began to come thick and fast.
“The initial call was about a sea lion, so we didn’t give it too much thought but as more calls began to come in it became pretty clear it wasn’t a 200 kilogram sea lion, it was a two tonne elephant seal,” he said.
While Mr Swan said it was certainly unusual to see a sub-antarctic elephant seal this far north, he said he definitely wouldn’t classify it as rare.
“I would say unusual, but certainly not rare.
“We see this a couple of times a year and it’s usually down on the south coast, there are big stretches of beach between Albany and Esperance where you’d never know they were there…as far north as Sorrento is unusual, but I wouldn’t call it rare.
“Southern elephant seals live in the sub-antarctic islands, so just north of Antarctica but a couple of thousand kilometres south of Australia.
“When they go out on their hunting expeditions, they’ll get a big belly full of food and they’ll look for the nearest spot they can to have a rest and a relax, digest their food and do it all again and I’d say that is what has happened here.”
Mr Swan said the elephant seal was largely nonplussed by the attention it received, and praised Sorrento surf life savers for their work in making sure nobody got too close to the animal.
“With the weight behind these things, if they get a bit of momentum up they can do a lot of damage, and they do have a nasty bite so the surf life savers just did a great job of making sure everyone gave it space.
“People need to remember it’s a wild animal, and we don’t want to stress it out by getting too close.
“Having said that one of the shark choppers flew overhead and he didn’t seem to be too fussed by that at all…he’s moved up and down the beach a little bit but mostly he is just doing what most of us do at the beach, relaxing and enjoying himself.” Follow WAtoday on Twitter
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