The experts at NOAA seem to have found the reason behind the starvation behavior of so many sea lions.
Researchers from NOAA have found the real reason why thousands of baby sea lions are starving off the coast of California. The fact of the matter is that the female sea lions have not done a good job at foraging for high quality food for the baby sea lions.
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Thus the pups are not able to get high octane fuel of sorts in their diet and so they starve and end up in an emaciated state. The care of these thin and weak sea lion pups has now become the duty of the staff of various animal centers.
It is a paradox indeed that the population of the sea lions has shown a remarkable increase. However, the starvation rate among the pups matches this population bulge.
The population has risen from 50,000 to 340,000 over the past 40 years or so. The lowering weight of the pups is there though and is a cause for immense concern among marine biologists and environmentalists alike.
Most of the poor pups have been found in a stranded and weak state in the south of California.
These young sea lions have not only lost weight over the years but been subject to a fatal end en masse. Such fatalities were common in the following years: 1983, 1992 – 1993, 1997 – 1998, 2009 and 2013.
Although the hypothesis that toxic marine algae may have something to do with this phenomenon of starvation and mass extinction has been entertained, there remain other mysterious causes which are specific to each time the phenomenon has repeated itself.
The farther back you go in time, the more you realize that there were whole industries that killed sea lions for their flesh, oil and pelts.
The 18th century was largely spent hunting for these sea lions for the benefits they provided hunters and the general human population. It was only in 1970 that certain laws were implemented and the populations have skyrocketed as a result.
Sea lions normally have a diet that consists of squids, anchovies, sardines, rockfish, hake and mackerel. They change their diets to suit the food supply in the marine wilderness too.
For the most part they are opportunistic feeders who titrate their consumption in accordance with scarcity or abundance.
The recent changes in diet from a high fat, high calorie ration to a low fat, low calorie ration may be responsible for this emaciation among the baby sea lions. It is said that this problem is likely to grow in the coming years.
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This NOAA study got published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.