Characteristic “neck collar” injuries in Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) caused by marine debris

  • Roger W. ByardEmail author
  • Aaron Machado
Images in Forensics


An adult male Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) presented with a deep, almost circumferential, incised wound around the neck caused by a noose formed by a single strand of green nylon rope. The wound extended 4-5 cm deeply through the skin and blubber into skeletal muscle, predominantly on the dorsal surface and left side, but had not involved the airway or major vessels. The edges of the wound were sharply incised and oozing blood with a granulating infected base. The rope was removed and the wound debrided of necrotic tissues and irrigated with disinfectant. Antibiotic and rehydration therapy were successful and the seal was released after 2 weeks of treatment. Entanglement injuries such as “neck collars” have characteristic features, are increasing in incidence and often have lethal outcomes. This type of injury may significantly impact upon populations of pinnipeds in the wild.


Australian sea lion Neophoca cinerea Entanglement Neck collar Marine debris Forensic Injury 


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

Permission for publication was given by the Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Organization (AMWRRO).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


  1. 1.
    Byard RW, Kemper CM, Bossley M, Kelly D, Hill M. Veterinary forensic pathology: the assessment of injuries to dolphins at post-mortem. In: Tsokos M, editor. Forensic pathology reviews, vol. 4. Totowa: Humana Press; 2006. p. 415–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kemper C, Flaherty A, Gibbs S, Hill M, Long M, Byard RW. Cetacean captures, strandings and mortalities in South Australia 1881-2000 with special reference to human interactions. Aust Mammalogy. 2005;27:37–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Byard RW, Machado A, Braun K, Solomon LB, Boardman W. Mechanisms of death in captive juvenile New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri). Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2010;6:217–20.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Byard RW, Winskog C, Machado A, Boardman W. The assessment of lethal propeller strike injuries in sea mammals. J Forensic Legal Med. 2012;19:158–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Byard RW, Machado A, Woolford L, Boardman W. Symmetry – the key to diagnosing propeller strike injuries in sea mammals. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2013;9:103–5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Gibbs SE, Kemper CM, Byard RW, Long M. Deaths of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in South Australia and implication of human interaction. Trans Roy Soc SA. 2004;128:231–7.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Gilbert JD, Kemper CM, Hill M, Byard RW. Forensic studies of a stabbed infant bottlenose dolphin. J Clin Forensic Med. 2000;7:150–2.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Byard RW, Gilbert JD, Kemper CM. Dolphin deaths: forensic investigations. Med J Aust. 2001;175:623–4.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Page B, McKenzie J, McIntosh R, et al. Entanglement of Australian sea lions and New Zealand fur seals in lost fishing gear and other marine debris before and after government and industry attempts to reduce the problem. Mar Poll Bull. 2004;49:33–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Colmenero AI, BarrÍa C, Broglio E, GarcÍa-Barcelona S. Plastic debris straps on threatened blue shark Prionace glauca. Mar Poll Bull. 2017;115:436–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Stelfox M, Hudgins J, Sweet M. A review of ghost gear entanglement amongst marine mammals, reptiles and elasmobranchs. Mar Poll Bull. 2016;111:6–17.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Franco-Trecu V, Drago M, Katz H, MachÍn E. With the noose around the neck: marine debris entangling otariid species. Environ Poll. 2017;220:985–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Carapetis E, Machado A, Byard RW. Lethal consequences of ingested foreign material in seabirds. Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2010;6:242–3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    McIntosh RR, Kirkwood R, Sutherland DR, Dann P. Drivers and annual estimates of marine wildlife entanglement rates: a long-term case study with Australian fur seals. Mar Poll Bull. 2015;101:716–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Lawson TJ, Wilcox C, Johns K, Dann P, Hardesty BD. Characteristics of marine debris that entangle Australian fur seals (Arctocephalis pusillus doriferus) in southern Australia. Mar Poll Bull. 2015;98:354–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Allen R, Jarvis D, Sayer S, Mills C. Entanglement of grey seals Halichoerus grypus at a haul out site in Cornwall, UK. Mar Poll Bull. 2012;64:2815–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hamer DJ, Goldsworthy SD, Costa DP, Fowler SL, Page B, Sumner MD. The endangered Australian sea lion extensively overlaps with and regularly becomes by-catch in demersal shark gill-nets in South Australian waters. Biol Conserv. 2013;157:386–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Waluda CM, Staniland IJ. Entanglement of Antarctic fur seals at Bird Island, South Georgia. Mar Poll Bull. 2013;74:244–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Boren LJ, Morrissey M, Muller CG, Gemmell NJ. Entanglement of New Zealand fur seals in man-made debris at Kaikoura, New Zealand. Mar Poll Bull. 2006;52:442–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of MedicineThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Forensic Science South Australia (FSSA)AdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Organization (AMWRRO)AdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations