In less than one year, an elephant seal nicknamed Jackson traveled an astonishing 18,000 miles. That’s the equivalent of New York to Sydney and back again.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)tracked the male seal from December, 2010, to November, 2011. The animal was tagged on the beach in Admiralty Sound in Tierra del Fuego in southern Chile. WCS conservationists fitted Jackson with a small satellite transmitter that recorded his exact location when he surfaced to breathe.
Jackson swam 1,000 miles north, 400 miles west, and 100 miles south from the original tagging location, meandering through fjords and venturing past the continental shelf as he foraged for fish and squid.
During this tracking, the WCS team analyzed the data to better understand elephant seal migratory routes.
Elephant seals are potential indicators of the health of marine ecosystems and may show how climate change influences the distribution of prey species that serve as the basis of Patagonia’s rich marine ecosystem. To protect this vast region, conservationists need to know how wildlife uses it throughout the year.
Caleb McClennen is WCS Director for Global Marine Programs. He said:
Jackson’s travels provide a roadmap of how elephant seals use the Patagonian Coast and its associated seas. This information is vital to improving ocean management in the region, helping establish protected areas in the right places, and ensuring fisheries are managed sustainably without harming vulnerable marine species like the southern elephant seal.
WCS reports that Jackson has returned to Admiralty Sound, the site of the original tagging. Each year, elephant seals haul ashore in colonies to molt and find mates. The satellite transmitter is expected to work until early next year, when it will eventually fall off.
WCS has tracked more than 60 southern elephant seals via satellite on the Atlantic side of the Southern Cone since the early 1990s. Jackson represented the first southern elephant seal tagged from the Pacific side of the Southern Cone.
Elephant seals are among the largest pinnipeds in the world, reaching weights of up to 7,500 pounds and lengths of 20 feet.
Bottom line: The Wildlife Conservation society tracked a male elephant seal – nickamed Jackson – for 18,000 miles, the equivalent of New York to Sydney and back again.
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