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Rev. biol. mar. oceanogr. 46(2): 135-140
Article

 


Behavioral response of South American sea lion Otaria flavescens  to tourist disturbance during the breeding season

Guido Pavez1, Lily Muñoz1, Patricia Inostroza2 and Maritza Sepúlveda2,3

1Facultad de Ciencias del Mar y de Recursos Naturales, Universidad de Valparaíso, Av. Borgoño 16344, Montemar, Viña del Mar, Chile

2Centro de Investigación Eutropia, Ahumada 131, oficina 501, Santiago, Chile

3Centro de Investigación y Gestión de los Recursos Naturales (CIGREN), Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Valparaíso, Av. Gran Bretaña 1111, Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Chile

 

E-mail: maritza.sepulveda@uv.cl   

 

Pinnipeds have a high predictability, both spatial and temporal, and tend to be distributed in patches, which permitting tourists easy access to them. However, the presence of tourists may generate a negative impact on the animals. The objective of this study was to evaluate, for the first time in Chile, the effect of ecotourism activities on the behavior of the South American sea lion Otaria flavescens during the reproductive season. We recorded a total of 44 visiting boats to the reproductive colony of this species on Isla Chañaral. The attitude of the majority of the tourists was a quiet one; however this was followed by moderate and disturbing behavior. The response of sea lions was mainly to escape, followed by a period of inactive and alert. The response of sea lions was negatively related to the distance at which the boats approached the colony, but was not related to the time boats remained in the colony or the behavior of tourists. Our results show that the South American sea lion is negatively affected by human presence, shown by the escape of individuals from the colony to the sea. Escaping from the colony may generate negative physiological effects on an animal physiological effects on an animal, and ultimately affect the fitness of the individual. We suggest that future studies should evaluate changes in behavior during the reproductive season and in other periods, and the behavior of sea lions at different ages and sexes, to provide tools to improve the management of tourist activities on the South American sea lion in Chile. 

 

Key words: Animal behavior, ecotourism, management, pinnipeds, Chile

 

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