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Mammals - Galapagos

There are not many mammal species that are native or endemic to Galapagos, as getting there from the mainland is very hard. Reptiles, for example, are much more likely to live on some floating vegetation for the weeks necessary to make it to the islands than a mammal. Still, the islands are home to a handful of endemic and native mammal species, as well as some undesirable introduced species.

The endemic mammal most often encountered by visitors is without question the Galapagos Sea Lion. These friendly critters are found on every island and often seem to enjoy interacting with tourists, particularly when snorkeling. Their cousins, the Galapagos fur sea lions, are much more reclusive and only can be seen at a handful of visitor sites. They can be tough to tell from the regular sea lions, but naturalist guides can spot the differences easily.

There were once several subspecies of the Galapagos rice rat, but pressure from the far more aggressive introduced black and Norway rats have driven most of them to extinction and there are now only three subspecies left. Every effort is being taken to preserve them, but it's a difficult battle against the introduced rats, cats and dogs. Active only at night, rice rats are very rarely seen by visitors.

The Galapagos Bat, or Galapagos Red Bat, is the only endemic bat in the islands. There are Hoary bats as well, but they're common elsewhere in the world. Both species nest in vegetation and mangroves and are active at night. The best place to see one is in one of the towns around dusk.

The Galapagos are also home to several species of whales and dolphins. These are rarely seen from shore but occasionally from a ship. The strait of water between Isabela and Fernandina is a good place to see them. The most commonly seen ones are Bryde's whales and bottlenose dolphins. Galapagos cruise ships will usually make an effort to see the whales if there are some in the vicinity.

There are, of course, several other mammal species in Galapagos, none of them helpful for the ecosystem. Early whalers and settlers brought domesticated animals to Galapagos, including pigs, dogs, cats, goats and donkeys. Unintentionally, they brought rats and mice as well. These introduced animals have become a true nuisance, destroying whole ecosystems and pushing Galapagos species to extinction. Aggressive extermination measures have greatly reduced the impact of these species, but the problem is not yet over.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to The Galápagos Islands: Recommended Reading List, Fish in the Galápagos, Galapagos Cruises: What's Included?, Punta Cormorant - Floreana Visitor Site, Nazca Booby, Flamingo, Planning your Galapagos Trip, Tourism in Mainland Ecuador, White-Tail Damselfish and Great Blue Heron.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
29 Mar 2010

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