Galapagos Fur Seals (Arctocephalus Galapagoensis) have been declining in populations since the 19th century. They are listed as endangered by the IUCN and are the smallest of all pinnipeds. Their range is fairly limited to the Galapagos Islands, although a small colony has established itself off Northern Peru. They prefer rocky outcrops on the West side of the Islands, leaving only to feed which they do exclusively at night. These seals do not migrate and will remain in the same area their entire lives (around 20 years) They are preyed upon by sharks and killer whales, though not to any major extent.
GALAPAGOS FUR SEALS – BREEDING HABITS
As with other seals, the Galapagos Seal is polygamous. However, these seals are unique in that they have the longest pupping period out of all the other species. Sexual maturity in males occurs at around 7-10 years while in females at around 3-4 years.
Galapagos Seal pups weigh around 3-4 kg at birth which occurs on rocky shores with an abundance of sea caves between mid August and mid November. Females will come to shore 2 or 3 days before giving birth and chose their own territories, which they will defend to the death. After remaining with her pup for the first week or so, the female will then begin a cycle of alternating between nursing for a day and then foraging for 2 or 3 days. She will usually mate again around 10 days after giving birth.
Aside from the lengthly pupping time, these seals also take the longest to wean, with pups as old as three being recorded as still on the teat. Usually though, they will be weaned at around two years. Only the Walrus has a nursing period as close as this.
Males, like most other otariids, are very territorial and will not abandon their turf until all their stored energy is up. As with the females of this species, males will fight to the death in order to defend their territory and these fights claim the lives of 30% of males each year.
Galapagos Fur Seals are the only fur seals to breed in tropical waters.
Their scientific name, Arctocephalus Galapagoensis, is derived from Greek and means “bear handed”
Estimates put their number at between 35 and 40 thousand. The el Nino in the 1980’s affected them badly, with a large percentage of them dying out due to starvation.
They are the most terrestrial of all fur seals and spend around 70% of their time on land.
Galapagos Fur Seals should not be confused with Galapagos Sea Lions The former are less vocal and their voice, though similar, is more guttural.