Cool fact…
This website helps meets Australia's obligations under the World Heritage Convention, by bringing Heard Island to the people (it's very difficult to bring the people to Heard Island!).

Southern elephant seal

Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal
Photo: R Kirkwood

Vital Statistics

Scientific name: Mirounga leonina

Weight: Females: 360 – 800 kg;
males: average 3700 kg (but can reach 5000 kg)

Length: Females 2.5 – 4.0 m,
males 4.5 – 6.5 m

Breeding age: 2 – 6 years for females, approximately 10 years for males

Breeding frequency: Annual

Breeding season: September – October

Age to weaning: 3.0 – 3.5 weeks

Longevity: 23 years for females, 15 years for males

Name Derivation: The genus name (Mirounga) is derived from 'miouroung', a name given to these seals by Australian aboriginals, and leonina is Latin for ‘lion’.

Foraging Statistics

What do I eat? Fish and squid

What eats me? Killer whales, leopard seals also take pups

Depth of water where foraging: Generally 400 – 600 m, females dive deeper than males

Extreme dive depth/time: 1444 m / 2 hours

Distribution & Abundance

Distribution: Breed and haul out in subantarctic regions. During non-breeding season, can migrate great distances in all directions.

Abundance: Approximately 750,000 with the highest number at South Georgia, and a substantial decrease at Macquarie Island.

Conservation Status: The species is a listed marine species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and is protected by a number of international agreements (e.g. listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS) under the Antarctic Treaty).

The species is also covered by the Sub-antarctic Fur Seal and Southern Elephant Seal Recovery Plan and the Action Plan for Australian Seals 1999.

General Comments

Nearly 90% of males die before reaching social maturity.

More information on other Heard Island seals:

This page was last modified on 28 February 2005.