National Geographic : 1955 Jan
110 A Wary Johnny Penguin Eyes the Foe, a Sleeping Leopard Seal In open water gentoos can usually outmaneuver the torpedo-shaped beast, fiercest of its kind. Near land, amid rocks and kelp, the seal ambushes penguins, killing and skinning them with powerful shakes of the head (page 112). Angry sea leopards have been known to attack men savagely. ers in high-pitched little barks. Old bulls rampage around, bellowing and trying to round up unwilling cows busy with family cares. A screaming, bickering crowd of gulls, skuas, stinkers, and sheathbills dashes hither and thither to fight among themselves for bits of offal. The pups remain with their mothers only three or four weeks. Then young of about the same age club together in small groups. These gangs gradually enlarge but do not im mediately take to the sea, contenting them selves with playing around in the fresh-water streams and shallow waters off the beach for the next six weeks or so. Watchful Bachelors Raid the Harem In the larger rookeries the harems that the bulls have created are pressed close together with no sharply defined boundaries. Posses sion may be nine points of the law, but a bull sea elephant must work mighty hard to re tain all his cows. Around the outskirts of his harem are strings of bachelor bulls, mostly younger ones, ready to slip in and poach a cow if the old gentleman relaxes his vigilance for a moment. Any such raid, of course, instantly pro- duces a roar from the lord and master. Rais ing head and chest on his foreflippers, he bel lows a challenge that should make even the bravest intruder pause. From deep in his throat come three or four reverberating ex plosions, ejected with such force that a shower of mucus is shot out as well. If the intruder is a smaller animal, this is usually enough for him, and he will consider it wise to move away. But an equally large bull, newly arrived from the sea, will often return the challenge and advance toward the owner of the harem. Such a gesture cannot pass unheeded. The enraged owner makes a headlong rush at the newcomer, steam-rolling cows and pups in his furious drive. If the challenger holds his ground, the two seals rear up on their hindquarters and lunge, each trying to tear the other with his huge upper canine teeth. Usually their necks meet with a resounding whack, and they try to get in a quick gash before withdrawing for a second attack. Occasionally, however, one bull misses al together, and falls on his face. The other seizes the opportunity to give him a good mauling, often tearing large lumps of skin and blubber from the neck and shoulders.