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Sea lions on Falkland Islands stamps

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The Falkland Islands Post Office has released WWF Southern sea lion stamps.

The stamps are issued in sheets of 50 with face values of 27p, 40p, 70p and £1.15p. There is also a sheetlet of 16 (4 sets in staggered format) with face value of £10.08p.

Sea lions are resident in the Falklands and can be seen at any time of year.

Numbers have declined dramatically since the 1930's when the Falklands held a large proportion of the world's population of Southern sea lion. Over 80,000 pups were born in the Falklands each year to a population of approximately 380,000. Since then periodic surveys have confirmed a decline in numbers until the 1990's. In 2003 a slight increase in the number of pups was recorded in comparison to 1995; however this still only represents 3.4% of the count obtained in the 1930s, meaning that the population remains alarmingly small.

No clear reason for this has been determined. The initial decline can be attributed to excessive hunting in the 19th and early 20th centuries. However it is far less obvious why there should have been such an extended lag between the cessation of hunting in the 1960s and the apparent start of a recovery in the 1990s. With other sea lion populations suffering from endemic diseases, toxic algal blooms and environmental factors, a population as small as that in the Falklands remains vulnerable.

The population decline, coupled with potential new threats from the fishing, oil and tourist industries, highlighted the need for a conservation strategy for sea lions in the Falklands. An accurate estimate of the size and distribution of the population is essential for developing conservation strategies and for testing their effectiveness. Falklands Conservation has now, in association with the Sea Mammal Research Unit, undertaken population surveys in 1991/92, 1995 and 2003.

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