I was so impressed by the sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, that I decided to post a photo blog just about them. The first time I saw a sea lion in the wild was when we set out to board our Ecoventura cruise “The Letty” on San Cristobal island. All the passengers got very excited and started taking photos of the handful of sea lions resting on one of the abandoned boats.
Little did we know that over the course of the next one week, we will be spotting more sea lions than humans.
The Galápagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) is a species of sea lion that exclusively breeds on the Galapagos Islands and – in smaller numbers – on Isla de la Plata, also in Ecuador. Being fairly social, and one of the most populous species in the Galápagos archipelago, they are often spotted sun-bathing on sandy shores or rock groups or gliding gracefully through the surf. (Source: Wikipedia)
Both male and female sea lions have a pointy, whiskered nose and somewhat long, narrow muzzle. The young pups are almost dog-like in profile. Another characteristic that defines the sea lion are their external ear-like pinnae flaps which distinguish them from their close relative with which they are often confused, the seal.
Breeding in sea lions takes place from May through January. The cow will nurture a pup for up to three years. In that time, the mom (known as cow) and the pup will recognize each other’s bark from the rest of the colony.We were able to see lots of pups chasing their moms, making demanding sounds and sucking on milk. The age of maturity for Galápagos sea lions is estimated at about 4–5 years. The total life span of Galapagos Sea Lions is estimated to be at 15–24 years.
When wet, sea lions are a shade of dark brown, but once dry, their color varies greatly. The females tend to be a lighter shade than the males and the pups a chestnut brown. Born with a longer, brownish-black fur, a pup’s coat gradually fades to brown within the first five months of life. At this time, they get their adult coat.
Majority of the 20,000-50,000 Galápagos sea lion population is protected, as the islands are a part of the Ecuadorian National Park surrounded by a marine resources reserve. Although the Galápagos Islands are a popular tourist destination, strict rules protect all wildlife from disturbance. Their main threats come from el Niño weather events, sharks and killer whales.
With a life that revolves around swimming in crystal blue waters, sun basking on white sand beaches, an occasional neck stretch and harmonious mates, what more can a Galapagos sea lion ask for?