New Zealand Fur Seal

Tue, 30 January 2024

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New Zealand Fur Seals, Kekeno, have made an impressive recovery following a near extinction in the nineteenth century. Now found across the country in coastal waters, rocky shores, and sometimes, unexpectedly, in urban areas – kiwis today have a soft spot for fur seals, but it wasn’t always this way.

Q. Kia ora Fur Seal, Can you tell us a little about yourself?  

 A. I am a swim-loving and sun-bathing enthusiast, equally at home in the sea as I am basking on the rocks. One of my tricks is floating with my flippers held out of the water, this behaviour humans call jugging, it helps us regulate our body temperature. Scientists call me Arctocephalus forsteri, the genus I belong to, Arctocephalus, translates to "bear head" and includes all the southern fur seals.

Q. Where do you like to hang out?

A. You’ll find me and my mates along the rocky coasts across New Zealand’s mainland and offshore islands, including the subantarctic islands and some parts of Southern and Western Australia. I spend most of my time searching for food, or hauling out, so I can rest. Some of my adventurous friends have wandered into film sets and people’s homes - that got people talking!

Q. What’s a signature seal skill? 

A. I can dive as deep as 238m, and while I usually make short one-to-two-minute dives, I can hold my breath for up to 15 minutes. As pups we must begin diving as young as six months old!

Q. What’s something that makes fur seals unique? 

 A. brace yourself for a big surprise – we're not your average seals! We’re actually ‘eared seals’, with external ear flaps like sea lions. We have forward-rotating hind flippers that let us waddle on land and clamber over rocks with ease. You can tell us apart from sea lions by our more pointed faces and smaller body size.

Q. How do you stay warm in the subantarctic islands?  

A. My secret weapons against the cold are my two fur layers. The outer layer traps air and stops water from permeating the inner layer, keeping me dry and warm. This helps me retain heat and withstand cold water.

Q. What is your favourite food?  

A. My diet mainly consists of octopus, arrow squid, small fish and crabs – but I also have a taste for larger fish such as barracuda and hoki.

Q. Sounds like seals had a tough time for a while - what happened?

A. The arrival of Europeans to New Zealand’s mainland brought the booming sealing industry which nearly pushed us to the brink of extinction for our luxurious fur. However, protection under governmental legislation from 1916 has helped us make a significant recovery.

View the NZ Fur Seal 'Creature Card' PDF

These creature cards are designed to download, print & display with your poster.
Find a format to suit your needs in this Google Drive folder.

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