The Galapagos Fur Seal is only found on the rocky western shores of the Galapagos islands, and nowhere else. Sadly, their population is reducing and they are now officially listed as “endangered”. As they are most active at night when they hunt, they are less common to see than the Galapagos Sea Lion, but there are about the same number remaining in the wild - approximately 40,000 animals. On a Galapatours cruise our expert naturalists and boat captains will maximise your chances of seeing these unique creatures on your journey around the islands.
The Galapagos Fur Seal is the smallest of the “eared seals”, with typical males growing to under 5ft (1.5m) in length and 130lb (60kg) in weight. They are often confused with the Galapagos Sea Lions as they look similar, but there are some key differences. Apart from their overall much smaller size, they have large, slightly bulging eyes which aid them when hunting at night and prominent ears that usually stick out from the head.
As nocturnal hunters, the Galapagos Fur Seals spend most of their day sleeping in small colonies on the rocky shorelines. In the middle of the day they will often move into shade to avoid overheating. The seal’s fur was prized by hunters, and they were almost hunted to extinction in the early 20th century until protected under Ecuadorian Law, and then further protected by the formation of the Galapagos National Park in 1959.
During the seals’ breeding season the females will lay claim to a small territory where she will breed and have her pup. The Galapagos Fur Seal has the lowest fertility rate of all the seals, each mother only ever giving birth to one pup. This is one of the reasons why the species is endangered, as any ocean warming caused by El Nino events can cause devastation amongst the population. As an example, in a 1983 El Niño event almost all that year’s young fur seals were lost along with a third of adult females and almost all of the large territorial males.
Fast Facts about the Galapagos Fur Seal
- Galapagos Fur Seals only spend about 30% of their time in the water
- Adult males will defend their breeding territory fiercely, not entering the water to eat until they are near collapse
- Galapagos Fur Seal pups aren't weaned until they are 2 or 3 years old
- Galapagos Fur seals were almost hunted to extinction in the 20th century for their skins