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Fast FAQS
Why do seals smell?
Anyone who has visited a seal colony will remember the smell. So: are seals smelly and why? Well, an individual seal smells no more than any other animal. In fact, they stay quite clean because they spend most of their time in the water. However, seals are friendly creatures and like to hang out in large groups when they are resting on land. As with any animal, when you get a large bunch of them in one place (and they are not toilet trained) then the smell of their poo builds up.

What is the difference between a fur seal, a sea lion, a true seal, an eared seal?
Seals are one group of animal that is poorly named and this causes a lot of confusion. Seals are all pinnipeds (meaning fin-footed). The two main families of pinnipeds are the phocids ("true" seals) and otariids (eared seals). Phocids, such as leopard and elephant seals, look slug-like and swim mostly with their hind flippers. They are not very agile on land and most of them haul out on smooth areas of ice or sand. Otariids, the fur seals and sea lions, have large front flippers which gives them agility over rocky landscapes. They are also distinguished form the phocids by their small external ears. So, fur seals are more closely related to sea lions than to "true" seals. The main difference is that sea lions have a single layer of thin fur while fur seals have very dense double-layered fur (hence their name). 

Do seals clap their flippers and balance balls on their nose?
Seals do not do these things in the wild but some are trained to do so in zoos. The most common performing seal is the California sea lion, although any otariid seal could be trained to do the same thing. This is because seals are intelligent and, like dogs, can be trained to learn and remember new skills. Phocid seals are just as smart but don't make very good performers because they can't stand up!

What are New Zealand fur seals doing in Australia? Shouldn't they go home?
New Zealand fur seals are native to Australia, New Zealand and some sub-antarctic islands, so their name isn't very accurate. 

Are Australian and South African fur seals the same?
Yes and no. Australian fur seals
(Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) are the same species as the South African or Cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) but because they are separate populations that never interbreed, they are considered distinct subspecies. The Australian subspecies is a bit larger in body size. It is thought that a group of South Africans migrated to Australia during the last ice age about 12,000 years ago. These days it is mostly human South Africans that continue the tradition.

       
South African fur seals                          Australian fur seals


What does the fur seal genus name Arctocephalus mean?
All southern fur seal species belong to the genus Arctocephalus, latin for "bear-headed" because the head of large males resembles a bear.

Are populations of Australia's seals growing rapidly?
Two of the 3 species have experienced recent growth but still remain below pre-sealing or "pristine" levels. The Australian sea lion has a small, declining population. See the information page on Australia's Seals.

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