Ecuador’s endangered sea lions at risk from human contact
A recent study conducted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) on endangered Galapagos sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) has revealed that the animals are more susceptible to starvation as a result of their exposure to humans. Over a span of more than 18 months, conservationists tagged and monitored the behavior and physiology of two groups of 60 Galapagos sea lions, one in San Cristobal, which is inhabited by humans, and one in Santa Fe, where there are no humans, dogs, cats, mice, or rats.
The study has shown that exposure to human influences such as pets and pollution can impair the animal’s level of immunity, making them less able to hunt and more likely to go hungry when food is scarce. In this popular luxury tourist destination for animal lovers, made famous by Charles Darwin, the effects of increasing contact with humans may be taking their toll on the species.
“A tell-tale sign of an unhealthy sea lion is a thinner than normal layer of blubber, which is what we saw in the sea lions on San Cristobal. This was all the more notable, as we didn’t notice these patterns in sea lions on Santa Fe, where they live without the presence of people or pets.”
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