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Extinction watch: The little-known Juan Fernández fur seal

This species is part of the group of eared seals and is the second smallest of thefur seals, second only to theGalapagosfur seal. They are found only onthe Juan Fernandes Islandsand tn he Desventuradas Islands on the Pacific coast of South America. There is still much that is unknown about this species.

Fur seals in general have thick insulating fur that protects the skin from cold water, they have small ear flaps on the side of their head, and they hold their weight on their front flippers which are also used for land locomotion.

The species was very heavily exploited for its pelt, blubber, meat and oil by commercial sealers from the 17th to 19th centuries. It was believed that the
Juan Fernández fur seal was extinct until a small group of 200 was found on the Juan Fernandez Islands in the 1960s.

Now it is estimated that over 12,000 individuals exist today.

The Juan Fernandez fur seal has a limited diet which includes lantern fish (myctophid fish) and squid. While they don’t seem to dive deeply for their prey, they often travel
long distances (more than 300 miles) from their breeding colonies for food, which they usually pursue at night.

It is known that the breeding habits of this species differs from other seal species.

Pupping usually occurs in November-December followed by mating about a week later. Breeding occurs on rocky sites, however adult males fight for territory on land, as is typical for fur seals, and on the shoreline and in the water.,

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