I met my first Australian sea lion 57 years ago. Today I fear for this delightful animal | Valerie Taylor


Eared sea lions, or, as most Australians name them, seals, have to be concerning the sweetest, and most loveable of all sea creatures.

Man is their nice enemy. One other is that unbelievable predator the good white shark, or white pointer, however whereas the white shark usually assaults solely sick, previous, or very sluggish sea lions, man in his traditional vogue is mostly not so discriminating.

I met my first Australian sea lion on Harmful Reef, out entrance Port Lincoln, South Australia. It was additionally on Harmful Reef that I noticed them butchered, in all probability for shark burley (bait). One minute they had been watching with wide-eyed curiosity and the following they had been being shot falling subsequent to their startled pups. Man had as soon as once more triumphed ever the harmless and helpless. That occurred about 57 years in the past and has little question been occurring ever since.

On 15 January 1975 the Australian sea lions on Harmful Reef numbered about 60 or 80 animals. Six years earlier than on the identical time there had been 200 or extra. I know as a result of I counted them myself.

We had returned to the Harmful Reef space with an Italian movie crew. The director, Bruno Valati, was making a one hour TV particular on Australian marine life. My husband, Ron, had promised Bruno he would discover a whole bunch of pleasant sea lions on Harmful Reef.

Australian sea lions, Hopkins Island, South Australia {Photograph}: Ron and Valerie Taylor/Ron Taylor Movie Productions

We had been working from a Kangaroo Island fishing boat. Our skipper, Invoice Zealand, anchored 200 yards from the principle island within the Harmful Reef formation, and all went ashore to movie the above water phase on sea lions dwelling in household teams.

This was when I first seen the unbelievable depletion within the variety of sea lions on the principle reef, and in addition how afraid the remaining animals had been.

The place had all of the sea lions gone? Maybe that they had moved on, maybe that they had died out from pure causes, or maybe that they had, within the identify of sport, grow to be shark bait.

I have written this story hoping that different folks could start to grasp how great an unafraid wild creature might be.

We completed filming white sharks round Harmful Reef and moved to Hopkins Island farther south, wanting for sea lions in giant numbers. Bruno wished to movie them underwater. Though he had some footage of the Harmful Reef sea lions, it was very poor in contrast with what might be obtained utilizing animals who had been much less afraid.

Valerie Taylor and an Australian sea lion
Valerie Taylor and an Australian sea lion {Photograph}: Ron Taylor Movie Productions

Captain Invoice anchored his boat simply out from a sunny sheltered cove. All of us suited up. For us it was a enjoyable dive, significantly after the white shark filming of the previous few weeks. Being banged round in a little bit steel cage could also be thrilling however is hardly good enjoyable.

On the tiny seaside might be seen a household group of about 70 sea lions. A number of seals appeared however confirmed no actual alarm till we began to crawl from the water. The impact of our sudden look was overwhelming, to say the least. The massive brown bull bellowed a warning and about 30 excited sea lions galloped down the seaside splashing round us. Surrounded by our new companions, we swam into deep water. At first I was nervous, for they got here so shut so quick that collision appeared inevitable, but it surely was solely a sport. I began to get pleasure from myself and take images.

They might additionally put their arms round one another in a really pleasant vogue. The truth is, they appeared one of many happiest and most loving household teams I had seen for a very long time. It was essentially the most great dive.

We returned to Harmful Reef yearly for perhaps 12 years all the time to movie sharks and to go to the Sea lions each on Harmful Reef and Hopkins Island. Yearly there have been fewer animals sunning themselves on the seaside.

It was within the early Eighties whereas baiting out from Harmful Reef {that a} fishing boat pulled alongside, and fisherman supplied us a useless sea lion to make use of as bait. The animal had been shot. The fishermen informed us the “silly creature” had grow to be entangled of their gill web (a standard drawback) and the best strategy to untangle them was to shoot them first.

Valerie Taylor and an Australian sea lion underwater.
Valerie Taylor and an Australian sea lion underwater. {Photograph}: Ron Taylor Movie Productions

All of us had been dismayed and most actually wished nothing to do with the useless animal.

Utilizing Ron’s footage and TV interviews I had efficiently had the killing of all seal lions in Australian waters banned. I know many eared seals fall prey to totally different pure causes however the introduction of man the hunter, the polluter, the uncaring has been the principle explanation for their decline.

Except the federal government proclaims bigger marine sanctuary areas across the remaining sea lion colonies I fear this delightful animal will grow to be just like the Tasmanian Tiger, solely a picture in an image e book.

Valerie Taylor is a conservationist, photographer and filmmaker, and an inaugural member of the diving hall-of-fame. Together with her husband, Ron Taylor, she made documentaries about sharks and was credited with filming the dwell shark sequences for Jaws. Valerie nonetheless spends a lot of her time working for the safety of the marine world and its inhabitants. She is 85 years previous


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