Pups
Pups are mostly born between May and December, although the peak pupping time appears to be October.
Pups are suckled for between 17 and 21 days, after which time the mother leaves her pup to fend for itself.

Pups are usually born at the back of isolated sea caves, selected by pregnant mothers for the natural rock protection at their entrances that disperse the force of all but the fiercest waves and highest of tides. Females enter the caves just prior to birth, which is a swift affair, as labour is short. The new pup emerges surrounded by amniotic fluid inside a membrane, which bursts on impact. The mother sniffs her pup and the bonding process begins. A short while later the placenta is passed. The pup's coat may be yellow, stained by excretions into the amniotic cavity. Its fur, or lanugo, up to 2 inches thick, provides reasonable insulation from the cold on land and turns white once washed by sea water. These so-called, white coated pups, are skinny and relatively helpless at birth, but grow rapidly, sustained by the rich milk of their mothers. The milk, the consistency of mayonnaise, contains 60% fat. Suckling starts as a hit and miss affair, as the pup searches for one of its mother's two nipples. Mothers can be amazingly patient at this time, flippering their pups towards their bellies and adjusting their body positions to help. Mothers may even keep moving their bodies to ensure the pup suckles for as long as possible. The pup suckles more often and for longer in the first week - perhaps 8 times a day to begin with and about 4 times per day later on. During the suckling period the pup will go from scruffy skin and bone to a flat, fluffy torpedo in just 17-21 days. During this time, the mother may stay with the pup resting, or enter the sea, but she will rarely lose a sight line to her pup and if safe, she will return on hearing her pup's plaintiff and haunting howls of hunger. After the first week, the pup may enter the sea on swimming practice. Initial trips may be unintentional as the pup is washed away at high tide, but forays become more frequent and longer as the white coat pup gains in strength and stamina. Its doggy paddle transforms into more conventional swimming as the back flippers become more coordinated and flexible, making diving possible. In high seas, the pup is often shielded from the worst of the waves by its mother's body as she positions herself as a breakwater for the pup. Pre weaned pups have been seen swimming with their mothers and unaccompanied. Throughout the suckling period the bonding process strengthens and some mothers appear increasingly affectionate towards their pup until the bond is severed completely at 17-21 days when the pup is weaned. The mother swims off leaving the pup to fend for itself. It must learn to fish for itself by instinct. Recently weaned pups may howl for their mothers until hunger drives them seaward in search of food. The pup's fat stores may sustain the pup for several months until the pup becomes a self sufficient weaner, taking its place along with the rest of the colony on the haul out beaches.

 

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