Haulout site selection by southern elephant seals at Marion Island
Hofmeyr, G.J. Greg (Gordon John Gregory); Bester, Marthan Nieuwoudt; Kirkman, Steve P. (Stephen Patrick); Pistorius, Pierre Anton; Makhado, Azwianewi Benedict; Mulaudzi, Tambu W.; Jonker, F.C.; Owen, J.H.; Grimbeek, Richard J.
Using data from an ongoing mark-resight programme at Marion Island, we tested empirically whether southern elephant seals prefer certain terrestrial sites to others during the breeding, moulting and winter haulouts, and whether the pattern of site use is the same for different age and sex groups. Southern elephant seals preferred some sites, while discriminating against other sites, with different age and sex classes using different sites for certain haulout events. Wintering young animals did not show strong site selection. Some popular sites were used for all haulouts by all age and sex groups, and apparently have all the requirements of a good site for terrestrial haulout by southern elephant seals. Site selection becomes more apparent with age, suggesting the role of haulout experience in site selection.