Galapagos Fur Seals Gain Foothold In Warming Peru

A baby fur seal is seen among rocks at Foca island in the northern city of Piura February 16, 2010.
Photo: Pilar Olivares

ISLA FOCA, Peru – Taking advantage of warmer seas, fur seals from the Galapagos Islands have established a full-fledged colony on the Pacific Coast of Peru, some 900 miles from their normal habitat, local scientists say.

Though the fur seals have been spotted sporadically for several years along the northwest coast of South America, the scientists in the last few months have gathered evidence adult seals are mating and having babies in Peru.

Carlos Yaipen-Llanos, a veterinarian and marine biologist at the Orca research center in Peru, believes climate change has allowed the fur seals to expand beyond their traditional home.

“This is a unique species that used to live exclusively in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador,” he said after luring a baby out of a cave on the rocky island by barking to imitate its parents’ calls.

“The scientific importance of the Galapagos fur seals establishing a resident colony in Peru is that the animals have extended their range and found a new habitat. This is associated with warmer water temperatures.”

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