JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Snout Snappers required for Whisker Patrol

Date
Although Australian sea lions are endangered, little has been done to track individuals.

Although Australian sea lions are endangered, little has been done to track individuals. Photo: courtesy Curtin University

The Whisker Patrol is up and running and it needs your help. The plan is a simple one - to gather as many close up photographs of Australian sea lions as possible.

But if you see a sea lion don't be concentrating on those big dark eyes, it's the hairy snout that should be the focus.

It's a plan by marine biologists at Curtin University and the idea is to set up a photo database so that scientists can track individual sea lions by using their whisker spots.

It's something that has already been set up for lions and polar bears - now our Aussie sea lions are next.

Dr Chandra Salgado Kent is in charge of the Whisker Patrol. She said that although the Australian sea lion is an endangered species little has been done to track individuals. It's a job made all the harder because the animals don't have any natural pattern of spots or stripes.

"Scars are often obscured by fur and change over time with molts and fur colour also changes when maturing," she said.

"Currently to study them sea lions have to captured and sedated to apply a microchip."

But the Whisker Patrol could change all that. The Curtin team hopes they will be flooded with sea lion photos so that the scientists can compare them and find out if they have individual patterns of whisker spots.

If you have taken a snap of a sea lion the Curtin team would like you to upload it to www.whiskerpatrol.org

Research Associate Sylvia Otterrieder said, "When helping us, remember to stay 10 metres away from the sea lions - while they look cute and cuddly, they are wild animals."

"If this method is successful scientists can build a catalogue of individual animals providing a non-invasive technique which can be used to better study the Australian species."

Dr Salgado Kent said studying Australian sea lions at an individual level would help scientists start to understand their habitat use, behaviour and movement patterns and discover more about their population demographics and species distribution.

Featured advertisers