Newborn seal hidden in the mangroves cries adorably for his mother
The Galapagos Islands are home to a wonderfully diverse and fascinating array of creatures. Among the most fascinating and lovable is the sea lion. Resembling dogs more than any other creatures, they are alike in physical characteristics as well as personalities. They capture the hearts of tourists and residents alike and they populate almost every beach and shore on the islands.
Female sea lions give birth to a single pup each year and they lovingly nurture these pups, in most cases, feeding them with milk and protecting them from harm. Often, they will hide their newborns in bushes or mangroves. Other times, they will leave them on the beach with their colony so that they can return to the ocean to hunt. While their babies are nursing, mother sea lions require a constant supply of food to keep up their milk supply. The mother of this very tiny baby will return soon, if all has gone well, and she will rest on the sand while he drinks milk and sleeps beside her. This will continue while he grows quickly and learns how to venture out into the waves himself.
This little fellow was only a few days old and he had been hidden in a mangrove clump just a little ways from shore on Isabela Island. He was visible to tourists who were walking on a wooden boardwalk that led through the trees. They stopped to admire the cute little pup and he seemed interested in them as well. He also seemed to have an itchy spot on his chest which he eased by rubbing it on the roots of the mangrove. As he did so, he seemed to be crying for his mother. Sea lion pups and mothers will call each other repeatedly throughout the day. As the mothers return from hunting, they are often calling to the babies before they have even gotten out of the water.
Sadly, many sea lion mothers do not return from hunting. They are eaten by sharks or injured in the open ocean and when this happens, the pups will starve. Sea lions will not adopt another pup and they will not be able to get food on their own until they are almost a year of age.
Another sad fact about sea lions is that the mothers will often reject the pups when they are born. If she has a healthy pup from the year before, the older pup will chase the younger one away and drink all the mothers' milk. The mother will chase the baby away too because she must dedicate her efforts and milk supply to the stronger pup.
Nature seems to know that not all pups survive. Having one each year allows for a better chance of success, even if it means the death of the next one in cases where there is an overlap. The people of the Galapagos have a true love for their wildlife, but they have learned that there is no benefit to interfering in nature's delicate balance. Helping sea lions will ultimately affect other populations in a negative way. They will not help the babies, as tempting as it is. Fortunately, this sea lion pup is healthy and is obviously being cared for by an attentive mother who has left him somewhere safe.