Multiple species of sea lions live at Marineland
South American, California, Cape and Steller sea lions.
They are fairly noisy, expressing themselves loud and strong in their colonies: roars, barks, bellows, growls and bleats in their youngest.
During the reproductive period, male sea lions try to outdo one another in strength, to gain access to the females that then join them along the beach in harems. They eventually give birth to a pup, after carrying it for a year. The harem allows the females to continue to hunt for food in the sea, while their pups stay safely behind in the nursery. The harem leader, though, won't go back into the water for a number of weeks, so as not to have his harem stolen by the non-mating males on the outskirts of the group. They then lose an incredible amount of weight that they will have to gain back, as soon as the colony goes back out to sea with its newest generation in tow.
Sea lions exhibit the unique trait of swallowing stones (as much as 11 kg (24 lbs) of gravel have been found in the stomach of a South American sea lion!). It is assumed that the goal is either to provide ballast when diving or to facilitate digestion.
Colonies of sea lions choose to live on pebble beaches, at the feet of cliffs, or on rocks during the mating season. The babies, or pups, gradually familiarize themselves with the liquid element, before venturing out into the open sea. They nurse for six months to two years, depending on the species. Sea lion life expectancies vary from 20 to 30 years, again depending on the species.
Steller sea lions are the biggest sea lions in the world, towering over the 14 species of sea lions with their 3 m (10 ft) length and 1 ton weight (for males). The females measure 2.2 m (7 ft) and 270 kg (600 lbs). They populate the entire North Pacific, from the coast of California to Alaska to the Japanese coastline.
Steller sea lions are an endangered species: since the early 20th century, they have been slaughtered en masse (55,000 animals killed) to protect fishing resources. This happened to such an extent that, in the mid-20th century, the rookeries (rocky areas where the harems live) that used to count about 1,200 births each year, now totaled just 10. In 1970, the Steller sea lion joined the list of endangered – and therefore protected – species in North America. According to the latest Canadian studies, those populations have been back on the rise since the 1990s.