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South American Sea Lion, Otaria byronia

This marine mammal is also exhibited in Rancho Texas Lanzarote Park. The South American Sea Lion is found along the coast of South America down to the Falkland Islands. The species owes its name to its physical appearance: Males have a very large head with a well developed mane making them the most lionesque of the eared seals. South American Sea Lions live in open and coastal waters as well as rocky coasts. They feed on fish, squid, octopus and other marine species.

Main characteristics

The South American Sea Lion belongs to the Otariidae family. It lives along the Pacific and Atlantic South American coast, from Peru to Brazil and down to the Falkland Islands. After the breeding season, the male sea lions spread along the coast. They have even been observed in the remote islands of the Pacific Ocean. The coat of the South American Sea Lion is dark brown. Males have a very large head with a well developed mane in a red-brown colour, which makes them the most lionesque of the eared seals. The rest of their body is covered by a short-haired coat.

Mating occurs from December to January, during the austral summer. During this time, breeding groups are formed, which can consist of up to 18 females with one to several males. The South American Sea Lions breed in large colonies on the rocky beaches of the islands close to the continent, such as the Ballestas Islands in Peru or Lobos in Uruguay. The males maintain their boundaries by barking, roaring and fighting and prevent them from leaving until mating is over. Each male is usually surrounded by numerous females. During this period, the males hardly forage or sleep in order to defend their territories and females from other invading males. The females have a 12-month gestation period and give birth around December and January. They give birth to one single pup which may nurse from six months to up to two years.

The South American Sea Lion is considered an endangered species. Their number is decreasing, with only 275.000 specimens left in 2002 (Gentry). The status is due to the fact that this sea lion species is still being hunted for their coat and grease. Furthermore, they are still killed due the sea lions’ habits of stealing fish and damaging fishing nets. Also their natural predators, such as sharks, contribute to the decline of the sea lion population.

South American Sea Lion, Otaria byronia

Facts:
How are they?
South American Sea Lions are marine mammals. Their coat is dark brown in adults, pups are born black. Their head is big, with upturned snouts. They can grow over 2,8m and weigh up to 300kg. Females are significantly smaller than males. Their neck and part of their breast is covered by a red-brown mane, which gives them their lionesque appearance. The rest of their body is covered by a short haired coat.
Where do they live? In open and coastal waters and rocky coasts.
How is the species geographically distributed? The coasts of South America: Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
What do they feed on? Fish, squid, octopus, penguins and other marine birds.

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