Conservation Status: Endangered
Scientific Name: Zalophus wollebaeki
The Galapagos Sea Lion is undoubtedly one of the stars of the show, leaving most tourists amazed at just how tame, friendly & damn cute they are. Snorkelling with playful sea lions swimming rings around you, is one of the most unbelievable experiences waiting for you at the Galapagos Islands.
They are the most common marine mammal at Galapagos, found swimming in the shallows, sleeping on beaches, and more often than not lazing on public benches or docks. Mostly they remain blissfully unaware of the snapping cameras, perhaps just blinking open one eye out of curiosity nothing more.
Photo taken from: National Geographic
Adult Galapagos Sea Lions have brown/grey fur, while newborn pups are more of a chestnut brown. Males (bulls) weigh up to four times that of females, and control a large territory with access to a harem of breeding females (cows). In season they have to fight off potential male rivals to the extent that they do not even have time to eat – the resulting weight and muscle loss usually means that they lose control of the territory after little more than one month. Non-dominant males, meanwhile, group together in bachelor colonies away from the females.
When to See Them: All year round. July and November are often good months to see baby pups in Sea Lion nurseries.
Galapagos Sea Lions are one of the easiest species to tick off your list, you’ll see them on all or most tour days, and at different sites across the archipelago. They are naturally social and inquisitive creatures, often coming right up to check visitors out.
Their mating season usually takes place between July and December, but can differ from island to island. A single pup is born, and spends the first week bonding closely with its mother – they develop a unique call to distinguish themselves from other pups of the nursery group. The mother then hunts for food by day, and the pup suckles milk in the evenings. Pups are dependent on their mothers for the first year of their life, although they do also learn to hunt and feed before then.
The most interesting Galapagos Sea Lion adaptation is that they have evolved a lower metabolic rate than other sea lion species, giving them ability to dive deeper and for longer periods of time (up to 10 minutes per dive). They are, however, an endangered species, due mostly to the occasional El Niño weather phenomenon. During El Niño, the Galapagos sea temperature rises, resulting in fewer nutrients for marine species, and devastating losses to Sea Lion populations.
Their streamlined bodies make them extremely efficient hunters, feeding on sardines, squid and even large tuna fish which they hunt in packs. Their main predators are Orcas and Sharks.
If you enjoyed this blog, check out more information about other Galapagos Animal Species.
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