Sea lion attacks Australian girl

Monday, August 20th, 2007

A sea lion attacks an Australian girl — and a marine scientist asserts that it was probably just trying to play with her:

A teenage girl has been attacked by a sea lion while surfing behind a speedboat off Australia’s west coast. Ella Murphy, 13, suffered cuts to her throat, a broken jaw and lost three teeth when the mammal leapt out of the sea and mauled her. She is in a stable condition in a Perth hospital after having surgery. A marine scientist said attacks by sea lions were rare and it may have been trying to play with the girl. Sea lions can grow up to 300kg (660 pounds).

The sea lion jumped out of the water like a white pointer shark, family friend Chris Thomas, who was driving the speedboat at Lancelin, 125km (80 miles) north of Perth, said to Western Australia’s Sunday Times newspaper.

“It actually lined her up. It jumped out of the water at her and hit her head-on … it opened its mouth and grabbed her head. It latched on,” he said.

The girl narrowly avoided a second attack, Mr Thomas said.

“It was going back for her, it was looking for her and it spotted her,” he said. “I had this horrible feeling I was not going to make it back in time.”

Sydney Aquarium marine scientist Grant Willis told AP news agency he had never heard of such an incident.

“To be out in the water and be attacked like this is just bizarre,” he said.

Mr Willis said the protected species would only attack humans if provoked.

“It might have been like a rag doll toy … it could have been … play for them, just wanting to shake it around,” he said.

(Hat tip to Todd.)

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