Elephants of the Sea, Page 2

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The comparative absence of females is to be explained by the fact that all such, animals necessarily are obliged to absent themselves from their young while feeding, and their fishing grounds may be many miles distant from the breeding island. Although the breeding habits of these great seals have not been studied in detail, it is evident that Guadalupe is the permanent home of the herd the spot where the males congregate and rest at intervals throughout the year, where the females come at their appointed time to meet their mates and to give birth to their young, and where the young black pups await the periodic visits of their mothers laden with milk.

Originally, the northern elephant seals were found on Cedros, or Cerros, Island, the San Bonito Islands, and in some instances on the mainland coast of lower California. Whalers, however, found that a good quality of oil could be obtained from the carcass, and the slaughter stopped only when the mammals became so scarce that it no longer paid to pursue them. On several occasions it was thought that they had been completely exterminated, but always stragglers existed to rebuild the herd.


To date very few animals have been taken with food in their stomachs. One that was harpooned off Port Loma by a fisherman was examined. It contained the remains of about thirty kelp sharks, a rock bass, and a double handful of squid beaks.

The future of these animals now seems fairly secure. One great danger is the high wall of lava that backs their beach, a hazard man cannot control. The strip of sand on which these animals are found is several hundred yards in length, by about a hundred and fifty feet in width. At each end there are great masses of crumbled rocks which tumbled destructively down at some time in the past. If such a landslide should again occur when the bulls are at home, it is doubtful if any would escape.

As far as danger from man is concerned, they are now well protected, due to the organized efforts of zoos and museums. Several years ago, at the request of American organizations, President Obregon of Mexico made Guadalupe Island a Mexican preserve. Stern penalties have been fixed for landing without a permit. Only one more bit of protection is needed, and that is an international agreement that will guard them on the high seas. The North Pacific Fur Seal Treaty has been marked with such wonderful success that the same measures should be followed in the case of this unique animal, whose habits are as yet little known, and deserve much study.

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