Southern elephant seal

Mirounga leonine

“For me seeing the huge, slow moving Elephant seal on land brings a sense of relaxation and calmness. I see them as having a quiet yet powerful approach to the world”. Janine Lavarello, Tristan da Cunha, Marine Protection Officer.

Elephant Seal © Andy Schofield
Elephant Seal © Andy Schofield

The Southern elephant seal is the largest of the seal family. Being called an elephant because of their massive snouts. Their migration patterns differ significantly to any other mammal by undergoing a double migration annually with females spending around 85% of their time at sea and males less than 80%.

The seals breed on Gough, before moulting and spending the winter in haul outs on any of  the islands in the Tristan archipelago, and give birth on Gough and occasionally Nightingale and Inaccessible.

During the mating period males will battle each other for mating dominance, seal bulls (males) form a shield of firm skin on their chests to protect them when fighting. Females give birth to a single pup in late winter, which she nurtures for a month. During this time the females don’t eat, she lives off the energy that is stored in ample reserves of her blubber.

IUCN Status – Least concern

Length – Up to 4.5m

Weight – Up to 4 ton

Life span – 10 years

Reproduction –  Every 3-4 years

Sightings around Tristan islands – Seen only occasionally, once per year.

Marine life on Tristan

The waters surrounding the Tristan islands are home to a diverse range of fish and invertebrates, including the commercially valuable crayfish.