Sea Lion

Otaria flavescens

IUCN Red List status: Least Concern

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Least Concern


Where they live

sea lions live along the coasts and offshore islands of southern South America, from Peru to Chile on the Pacific side, and from Argentina to Uruguay on the Atlantic side, as well as in the Falkland Islands


native seas; sea lions are non-migratory animals meaning they will spend their whole life in one area


females 1.8 -2m, males up to 2.7m


females 150 kg, males between 300–450kg


20-25 years


South American sea lions were hunted extensively in the 19th and 20th centuries, which heavily depleted some populations. This species is no longer hunted commercially, but some countries wish to resume hunting South American sea lions. They are also at risk from loss of habitat and from ocean pollution. Most sea lion, have high concentrations of toxic chemicals and metals in their body tissue.

Did you know...

  • Sea lions can be distinguished from true seals because they have external ears and walk on their long mobile flippers
  • During the mating season, male sea lions won’t eat, but instead choose to focus entirely on protecting their territory and females
  • Sea lions have no need to drink; they obtain all the water they need from their food

More about sea lions...

Males are much larger than females with a thick, maned neck and large head, giving them a lion-like appearance. Both sexes have upturned snouts and external ears.

They are large and fearsome predators, but are preyed upon themselves by killer whales, which go so far as to beach themselves in pursuit of a sea lion pup.

Patagonian sea lions are carnivores, feeding primarily on schooling fish, such as anchovies and hake.

They will also feed on squid and octopus or on what is seasonally available. They occasionally prey on penguins and fur seal pups.Their foraging grounds are shallow areas within five miles of shore.

South American sea lions prefer open sandy or pebble beaches for resting on shore, and group in large numbers.

They will form smaller groups in rocky areas and sometimes make use of boat wharves for resting and sunning themselves.

The largest and most intimidating males establish harems of up to 18 females.

After 110 days the female will give birth to a single pup. The pups are born black, but change to brown as they mature and moult.

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