The South American fur seals belong to the same family as sea lions (Otariidae, meaning eared seals). They are more agile on land than the 'earless' seals as they can move their hind limbs forward underneath their body which is raised as they move.
Fur seals are carnivores and eat fish and squid. In captivity they have whole or chopped fish, usually mackerel, with special "fish-eater" tablets containing supplementary vitamins and minerals which are necessary when using frozen fish. They are sometimes given ice blocks with frozen fish inside. The seals play with them as they melt and obtain the treat inside.
In the wild, fur seals are found in the oceans and around the coasts of Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and the Falklands. In the breeding season, this species prefers rocky coasts, where adults haul out onto the rocks. They are particularly numerous on the coast of Uruguay and can sometimes be seen in the open ocean breaking the water surface to breath.
Like all fur seals, this species was hunted almost to extinction for their rich, warm fur. Until very recently they were still being killed in Uruguay, but in 1991 the hunt was finally stopped.
A growing threat may be the reduction of fish stocks that the seals depend on, as a result of large-scale industrial fishing.
Fur seals also have a different type of coat from that of sea lions, having considerably more secondary hairs, forming a dense undercoat which effectively insulates the body. Other seals have a thick layer of blubber to keep them warm, rather than a layer of "fur".
You can find our South American fur seals inside the Seal & Penguin Coasts exhibit
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