A Breathtaking Event in the Galapagos: A Sea Lion Birth on South Plaza Island

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Galapagos Sea Lion

Reader warning: The following post includes disturbing images showing Galapagos wildlife behavior. Viewer discretion is highly recommended.

When we arrived at South Plaza, we had no idea what the weather had in store for us that day, nor could we anticipate witnessing a galapagos sea lion birth.


Even though it’s a small island, South Plaza is quite pleasant. The official walking path, created by the Galapagos National Park, is a loop that begins at our disembarkation site and circles the majority of the island. After leaving sea level, it rises to a notably tall cliff on the other side. We chose to hike the sea-level portion of the trail on this particular day to take in the views adjacent to the water and spot some of the famous BIG15 Galapagos animals.

South Plaza landscape.
South Plaza in the Galapagos Islands is known for its interesting wildlife and vegetation.

Within the first twenty minutes of our arrival, we saw tons of Sally light-foot crabs, marine iguanas of all sizes, land iguanas in abundance, sea lions (both in the ocean and lounging around on some rocks), and a large number of swallow-tailed gulls, both young and adult. We arrived at a fantastic scene that awaited us after our little stroll down the shore.

The Occurrence: Galapagos sea lion birth on the Galapagos Islands

Abruptly, there it was, just off the coast, not too near nor too far away: a sea lion preparing to give birth. At that point, our naturalist guide decided to stay behind so we might see a sea lion give birth! The female initially circled about slowly, going round and round in circles. She was also periodically rolling around, turning over, and sniffing at minuscule black fins about to escape. Then, after a few minutes and several more twists, we could already make out half of the Galapagos sea lion cub’s body.

Galapagos sea lion being born.
Witness a Galapagos sea lion being born!

After a short while longer, something unique happened: a Galapagos sea lion birth! The fact that the entire event occurred in just thirty minutes without any drama, loud noises, contractions, large groups of people, or anything else remarkable may have been even more astounding than this miracle of life. Just the members of our tiny expedition group observing. The fact that the female sea lion gave birth alone, without any assistance, shocked some people.

A Galapagos sea lion birth!
A Galapagos sea lion birth!

The Repercussions

And then, it was everywhere in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Upon receiving its newborn, the mother sea lion showered it affectionately, stroking and cleaning it immediately. To my mind, the cub appeared to be a fairly average size. It started operating immediately and was essentially up and running. It made sense that the mother was still occupied with her child and appeared exhausted.

Galapagos mammals: sea lions.
Sealion mothers stay with their pups on the beach and spend their time nursing them.

None of us anticipated seeing anything like this on this particular day. While the others of our group wandered around, tensely shooting pictures or taking a break from it all, about one-third of us stood in total quiet. We showed the Galapagos sea lion respect without upsetting it in any manner. We knew we had witnessed the day’s high point, so we left it alone and continued our adventure. It was so breathtaking to see such a wonderful occasion!

Newborn Galapagos sea lion.
Newborn Galapagos sea lion.

Updated:June 6, 2024

Published:September 19, 2017

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