We spent the week leading up to our opening in Perth, Australia, going out on a boat each morning to nearby Carnac Island to observe and photograph endangered Australian sea lions. Such LOVELY, social, playful creatures! They were easily 400 - 500 lbs, but gentle as could be.
Sadly their numbers seem to be declining on this island. The most we ever saw on the beach was 5 sea lions. We are not sure if they are just moving to some other location en masse, or if something has happened to them. Given their already low numbers, this would truly be a tragedy.
Strangely though, the Australian government allows local recreational boaters to swarm the tiny bay where they come to rest after days at sea. On the weekend the bay on Carnac Island is crowded with dozens of boats filled with drunken passengers who illegally go onto the island itself, kick the sea lions, throw beer bottles at them, put their kids on top of the sea lions for photo ops, and chase them into the water. Doubly strange was the fact that, despite being the ONLY boat there the entire week, and with only 8 people in our group, all of whom are passionate about the marine ecosystem and respect the animals and have a lot of experience dealing with them (and at least one in our number is a professional career underwater photographer specializing in marine mammals), the park rangers saw fit to come and scold us for photographing them, telling us the animals could be vicious and attack us and that we needed to swim away if the sea lions approached us. Meanwhile they let the drunk locals mercilessly harass them every weekend. The world is upside down.