Galápagos Big 15: Galápagos Sea Lion
Genetic research has shown that the Galápagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeckii) is a separate species from its probable ancestor, the California sea lion.
Numbers range between 16,000 and 18,000 individuals. Nonetheless, given that they are an endemic species in a small area, they are listed as endangered.
They are slightly smaller than their cousins in California as an adaptation to the archipelago’s hotter climate. In length, they range from 150 to 250 centimetres (59 to 98 inches). Males are much larger than females, weighing as much as 360 kilogrammes (800 pounds).
When protecting their harems, they can be aggressive, and visitors should take care. Juvenile males form “bachelor” colonies until they are big enough to challenge a dominant male for a harem. In contrast with the Galápagos fur seals, Galápagos sea lions forage during daytime, predominantly catching sardines, sea bass, groupers and mullets.
El Niño events also impact their population by reducing food supply. They are among the favourite Galápagos species for most visitors. Playful and curious, it is not unusual to enjoy snorkelling near frolicking sea lions. Curious pups should never be touched as their mothers may reject them as they identify them from smell. Breeding takes place from May to January, so pups can be seen all year.
They stay near the shore to stay safe from predators, sharks and orcas. All of our guests, regardless if travelling on our vessels or staying at our Finch Bay Hotel, see Galápagos sea lions.