California Sea Lion

(Zalophus californianus)

California sea lions are predators, like all species of seal. Their habitat is not just limited to California, they actually colonise the entire coast from Mexico and, outside the breeding season, even as high up as Alaska, where they live together and hunt.


Western coast of North America

Coastal regions

Fish, squid, crabs

Approx. 355,000

180 to 250 cm

100 to 350 kg

Gestation time:
11 to 12 months

Achievable age
Approx. 17 (in the wild), to approx. 28 years in human care

What you should know about the California sea lion
Sea lions live together in large colonies. These are divided into various territories of males who have fought for that place for themselves and their females. The strongest settle in the best places, the young and the weak sea lions are pushed out to the edges.

Sea lion kindergarten

The young sea lion is so independent just two weeks after it's birth that it forms a small 'toddler' group together with other young sea lions and goes off in the group to explore and to learn to swim in shallow waters. The young are suckled by their mothers for three months and afterwards, they take to the open waters step by step.

Much-coveted fur and blubber

Seal hunters have selectively targeted California sea lions due to their fur and blubber. The species almost died out in the 19th century as a result and the consequences were there to be seen even into the start of the 20th century. There was just the single sea lion on the Channel Islands in 1908.

Is it true, that …?
It is all to do with instincts? No way! Just like human children, the young sea lions have to first learn the right movements for swimming – so it's nothing to do with instinct. That is why young sea lions also swim in quieter bays to begin with, before they slowly but surely swim far out with their mothers.