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Monster Sea Lion Mauls Girl Surfer


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Monster sea lion mauls girl surfer

A THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD girl is lucky to be alive after being savaged by a huge sea lion off the small port town of Lancelin, in Western Australia.

Ella Murphy was mauled by the monster, said to weigh more than 300kg, when she was standing on her surfboard tow-surfing behind a boat yesterday.

The sea lion leapt from the water and went for her throat, nearly killing her.

The animal was charging in to attack a second time as she lay in the water, when the driver of the boat managed to put the vessel between the animal and Ella and rescued her.

Ella had a a big wound under her chin, a broken jaw and three of her teeth were knocked out.

The boat's driver, family friend Chris Thomas, 40, said he thought Ella would die in the attack.

"You can only describe it as like a white pointer jumping out of the water,'' he said.

"It was really sort of movie-like. This thing just exploded in a full-on, frontal attack.

"It actually lined her up. It jumped out of the water at her and hit her head-on.

"It must have been travelling at an enormous speed.

"It opened its mouth and grabbed her head. It latched on.''

Mr Thomas managed the dramatic rescue after seeing the animal return again to attack Ella.

"She popped up, and its head popped up out of the water about 10m away,'' he said.

"It was going back for her, it was looking for her and it spotted her. It was full-on.

"I had this horrible feeling I was not going to make it back in time.

"Ella was starting to freak a bit, I think she realised she was in the water with this thing.''

Mr Thomas, a veteran surfer, said he had seen the sea lion in the area many times.

"This was one of the big boys,'' he said.

Ella was in a stable condition last night after undergoing surgery at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Her mother, Michelle Forbes, said her daughter was millimetres from death.

"It was quite close to her carotid artery. We could have lost her,'' she said.

Ms Forbes wanted to warn other people of the danger.

"A lot of surfers go out surfing when there are seals and sea lions and think that that's okay, but in this instance it certainly wasn't.''

The Department of Conservation and Environment is searching for the animal, hoping to move it from the area.

Sea lions are protected and it is unlikely it will be killed.

CALM senior wildlife officer Doug Coughran said the attack was an important reminder that sea lions were aggressive, wild and powerful animals with teeth similar to a large dog.

Sea lion attacks were rare.

While Ella's attack appeared to be a freak incident, the animals were sometimes mistreated by people who got too close and lacked respect for them.

"It certainly sounds like an aggressive attack,'' he said.

"There's some trigger that's motivated the attack. From what I can gather, they weren't doing anything untoward, but other people may have.

"People have the misconception that wild animals are like those that they see on Walt Disney movies, and they are simply not like that.

"They're wild animals, not a furry, cuddly thing.

"The consequences of an animal taking you on can be severe to catastrophic.''

Mr Coughran said the sea lion was probably a sub-adult male.

He said that being the end of mating season, the sea lion could have been "hyped-up''.

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