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The Galápagos Sea Lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) is a species of mammal in the Otariidae family. It exclusively breeds on the Galápagos Islands and – in smaller numbers – on Isla de la Plata (to Ecuador). Being fairly social, and one of the most numerous species in the Galápagos archipelago, they are often spotted sun-bathing on sandy shores or rock groups or gliding gracefully through the surf. Their loud “bark”, playful nature, and graceful agility in water make them the “welcoming party” of the islands.
The majority of the Galápagos Sea Lion population is protected, as the islands are a part of the Ecuadorian National Park surrounded by a marine resources reserve. Although the Galápagos Islands are a popular tourist destination, there are strict rules protecting all wildlife from disturbance. Fluctuating between 20,000 and 50,000 sea lions, the population does have a few threatening factors. During El Nino events, the population tends to decrease due to die-offs, cessation of reproduction, and collapses in marine life the seals are dependent on. Sharks are the main predator to the sea lion, and killer whales are presumed to be another predator as well.