New Zealand Fur Seals (Kekeno)
New Zealand fur seals are common on the coasts to New Zealand’s South Island, and are often seen sunning themselves near Seal Bay on our Akaroa harbour cruises.
Where do New Zealand fur seals live?
New Zealand fur seals like to live on rocky shorelines and outcrops. They love areas with lots of boulders and crevices as it gives shelter to their pups. With colonies around the Banks Peninsula coastline, these seals are frequently seen sunning themselves on the rocks on most Black Cat trips.
What do fur seals eat?
New Zealand fur seals eat a range of seafood. Their favourites are anchovy, squid, octopus, barracuda and mackerel. These fish tend to live deep in the ocean, so the seal needs to be especially equipped top hunt them.
New Zealand fur seals can dive deeper and longer than any other type of Fur Seal. They can dive deeper than 200 metres and hold their breath up to 11 minutes. This way, they get to eat all of their favourite foods.
Of course, it’s dark deep in the ocean, and the seals need a way to find their dinner. Like dolphins, Fur Seals are known to echo-locate to help find their way under water. Fur seals feed continuously at night from sundown to sunrise and sleep during the day.
Why do these seals have fur?
Fur seals are covered in two layers of fur. The outer layer is used to trap air bubbles and keep the inner layer dry and warm. Imagine how cosy they must be when they swim!
The fur can be a little too cosy though, and fur seals often overheat in warm weather. When it’s hot out, you might see them flapping their fins to cool off or flipping sand onto themselves. The sand keeps direct sun off their bodies and cools them down quite a bit.
What threats do fur seals face?
Once hunted for their fur and meat until almost extinct, it is estimated that within 36 years of intensive sealing, Europeans killed half a million seals.
But New Zealand fur seals are coming back from the brink of extinction: in 1894 they were given full protection and numbers have increased in New Zealand to approximately 60,000.
These days, the seal’s biggest threats are large sharks and Orca, and sometimes sea lions will feed on fur seal pups. It is illegal to hunt the New Zealand fur seal for fur or meat, but they are still threatened by human actions like pollution and fishing nets.