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Seal Gifts and Sea Lion Gifts

Seals are typically sleek-bodied and barrel-shaped. Their bodies are well adapted to the aquatic habitat where they spend most of their lives. Their limbs consist of short, wide, flat flippers.

Sea lions are any of seven species in seven genera of modern pinnipeds including one extinct species. Sea lions are characterized by the presence of external ear. Their range extends from the subarctic to tropical waters of the global ocean in both the northern and southern hemispheres with the notable exception of the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea Lions of Galapagos

On the Galapagos Islands, holiday makers are a common sight and many of the animals that make the region their home are accustomed to seeing people. One of the most conspicuous and prevalent animals on the archipelago is the Galapagos Sea Lion. They are also arguably the most appealing of all the inhabitants; their cheeky faces with a constant smile and their huge, black, liquid eyes have entranced boatloads of visitors on Galapagos Island tours for many years.

The Galapagos Sea Lions range in size from about 50kgs up to 400kgs for a full grown male. Males are slightly darker than the females – although it is hard to tell when they are wet – and they have a distinctive bump on their heads. The main characteristic which differentiates the sea lions from their close relative, the seal, is their external ear-like flaps. The sea lions are extremely agile in the water; their front flippers control them but their back flippers move independently, allowing them easy passage on land as well as acting as a rudder to help them turn quickly in the water.

Although they spend much of their time fishing and swimming, the sea lions also love sunning themselves on the beach and in tidal rock pools. They are homebodies at heart and seldom venture further than about 15km from the shore. They are very approachable and quite placid; however care needs to be taken with the larger bulls. In many locations you can swim freely amongst the sea lions without causing a fuss. They may show some interest but mainly just get on with their daily business, not paying too much heed to their human companions enjoying their Galapagos Islands holiday! A favourite game the sea lions love to play is to swim towards you at great speed, and then veer off at the last moment. Hold your nerve and it can be a delightful experience.

The Galapagos Sea Lions live in colonies consisting of about thirty females dominated by one bull, and the remainder of the males live in bachelor colonies. There is a constant war between the males as they vie to dominate the breeding colony, often culminating in a bloody battle. Sometimes however, the dominant bull becomes so weary from his breeding duties and lack of food he simply surrenders and slinks off to join the bachelors group, conceding to the next young male!

One of the main drawcards that brings so many people on their Galapagos Islands holiday to visit the sea lion colonies is the inquisitive and endearing faces of the pups. Female sea lions carry their pups for around eleven months. After they are born it is about five months before they learn to fish for themselves, but the mothers continue to suckle them sometimes well beyond twelve months. Due to the constant breeding cycle, this can often mean that a mother is still suckling one pup when she gives birth to her next.

Although numbers of the Galapagos Sea Lions are now growing, they are still listed as vulnerable. In 1979 there were about 50,000 living on the islands, but years of El Niño cycles and human interference saw numbers dwindle to less than 16,000 in 2001. The main problems have been the ‘long nets’ that fishermen use, which entangle the sea lions, together with fish hooks and outboard propellers - deadly temptations for inquisitive juveniles.

Another danger for these beautiful creatures is unfortunately human waste and refuse left by visitors on their Galapagos Islands holiday. By raising awareness of these ecological issues however, scientists monitoring numbers on the islands, have reported a measure of marine condition improvement, and the population now fluctuates between 30,000 - 50,000.

On the Galapagos Islands, holiday makers are a common sight and many of the animals that make the region their home are accustomed to seeing people One of the most conspicuous and prevalent animals on the archipelago is the Galapagos Sea Lion

About the Author
Louise Mumford is a holiday specialist at South American Experience, a company that specialises in tailor-made arrangements for a Galapagos Islands Holiday . Our dedicated team has two decades of first-hand experience in the Latin America region.




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