Like most oceanic islands, the Tristan archipelago supports fewer species compared to a continental
landmass of similar size, and although many of the species found there are unique to Tristan, others
are in extreme abundance, such as the Subantarctic fur seal, Arctocephalus tropicalis.
The fur seal population at Gough Island has possibly recovered to pre-exploitation levels and
numbers some 300,000 animals with an estimated 60,000 pups born as an educated guess, about 80%
of the world population. The species was extinct at the northern isles of the Tristan archipelago in
early 20th century through indiscriminate sealing during the late 1700s and early 1800s. Relatively
small numbers bred at Tristan da Cunha, Nightingale and Inaccessible islands after more recent
recolonization, most likely from Gough Island, and these populations are now rapidly increasing in
size through intrinsic growth.
They breed in congested coastal colonies, favouring jumbled rocky beaches. Juveniles and females
are present year round, but males are strongly seasonal, returning October–December to compete for
territories on breeding colony beaches. Females arrive soon after the males and are gathered in
harems, giving birth to one black pup in late November–early January. The adult males depart to
sea when the harems start breaking up in late December–early January, with some returning to
moult February–March. Female feeding trips to sea are followed by visits to shore to suckle the
pups throughout the long lactation period, the pups remaining at the island for 10-11 months.
This stamp series celebrates the islands’ fur seal population, the largest in the world. The fur seals
have been investigated since 1974 at Gough Island, and from 2011 at Tristan da Cunha Island, by the
Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria, South
Africa, under permit from the TDC Conservation Department, with approval by the Administrator
and Island Council.
The following are depicted:
35p – Fur seal mother and pup
Lactating female, 1.0–1.3 m, 21–46 kg, and her older pup, which grows rapidly and moults to a
silver-grey coat by four months of age. Vibrissae (whiskers) in older, adult females are wholly white
but are predominantly dark in immatures of both sexes.
35p – Immature fur seal
Medium-sized immature fur seal with typical lack of a clear demarcation between the dark upper
parts and the pale face, throat and chest, only characteristic of older adults.
70p – Adult male fur seal
Adult male, 1.5–1.8 m, 74–158 kg, with an enlarged chest and shoulders, long white whiskers and a
prominent crest or tuft on top of the head. The creamy-buff face, throat and chest is diagnostic,
contrasting with the darker greyish-brown crown and back.
70p – Fur seal mother and pup
The adult female, without a prominent crest or tuft on top of the head has a more slender build than
the adult males, with a creamy-buff face, throat and chest. Her pup, which she leaves periodically
over a 10-11 month lactation period, to forage at sea, is partly moulted.
£1 – Partly moulted pup
Pups are 30–40 cm, 3–6 kg at birth with a black coat; They grow rapidly and moult to a silver-grey
coat by four months; They remain at the islands until almost one year, fasting while they wait for
their mothers to return from their frequent foraging trips.
£1 – Adult male fur seal
Russet coloured adult male fur seal in the late afternoon sun. The upper parts are usually a variable
dark greyish-brown, fading to ginger on the belly and white to burnt orange on the chest, muzzle
Designs: Bee Design
Photography: Mia Wege
Printer: Lowe- Martin Group
Stamp Size: 28 x 42mm
Sheet Format: 10
Perforation: 12.85 per 2 cm
Release Date: 12 April, 2017