Early mortality in the South American fur seal (Arctocephatus australis) in Peru is considerably higher than that seen in any other population of fur seal; 31–49% in the first month as opposed to a maximum of 20% in other populations. In 1987 and 1988, pup mortality was found to be enhanced by density-related effects and predation on pups by the southern sea-lion (Olaria byronia). At a high density beach, where 60% of the fur seals bred, mortality correlated with the number of females ashore as did aggression. Female aggression was driven to high levels by a combination of high density and movement within the colony to thermoregulate. However, even at a low density, beach mortality remained high due to a high level of predation by male southern sea-lions (low density beach 5·0–8·3% of all pups; high density beach 0·2%). Predation rates were lower at the high density beach because male fur seals expelled most attacking sea-lions during the breeding season (low density beach 10·0% of attacking sea-lions expelled; high density beach 58·8%).