The southern elephant seal is the largest carnivore living today. The seal gets its name from its giant size and the large proboscis of the adult males, resembling an elephant's trunk. According to an 18th-century description, the "Monsters of the Deep" make "dreadful Howlings and Voices which seem too terrible for Human Ears". Indeed, they can be extremely noisy and very dangerous, especially during the mating season. due to their size and body weight (4,5 m in length, 1,5-3,0 tons), but also their unexpected swiftness. They can move faster than a human. Elephant seals live in enormous herds consisting of stable and non-overlapping harems, each one of them counting one male and up to 150 females. They spend most of time diving as deep as 500 meters below the ocean's surface, but due to the inaccessibility and darkness of their foraging areas practically all observations about them have been made on land. The animals are highly territorial on often have bloody fights between them, however the biggest danger for this species used to be (again) the man hunting them for fat, so that they came to near extinction in the 19th century. On South Georgia the elephant seal were aggressively hunted until 1964. Now the species is strictly protected and its population has reached a safe number of 700 000 individuals. South Georgia is one of their biggest sanctuaries.
Back to gallery