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Scientists discover bones of seal lions from Ulleung

National 11:00 November 29, 2020

SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) -- A group of South Korean scientists has found that a batch of animal bones discovered from Ulleung Island belonged to sea lions, which went extinct decades ago on the island, the maritime ministry said Sunday.

The announcement came after a group of local scientists found 20 pieces of animal bones from Ulleung in the East Sea earlier this year. The bones were later confirmed through DNA analysis to be of sea lions, according to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

"Previously, there were only historical documents backing up the presence of sea lions on Ulleung," an official from the oceans ministry said. "The latest discovery is significant as it has scientifically verified the claim."

While there used to be 20,000 "Zalophus japonicus" living on Dokdo and nearby Ulleung, the number sharply decreased throughout Japan's occupation of Korea from 1910-1945, with sea lions eventually going extinct.

The last surviving sea lions there were found in 1976, with no further reports having been made since. They were confirmed to have gone extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1996.

In 2019, local scientists discovered animal bones from neighboring Dokdo, which were also confirmed through DNA tests to be of sea lions.

This photo taken on Aug. 7, 2015, shows a mural depicting sea lions on South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo. (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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