Nature Profiles

New Zealand Mammals

New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri)


Otago Peninsula, Dunedin

The commonest seal around New Zealand's coast, this species is also the commonest seal seen along the coast of southern Australia.  You can see photos from South Australia here

As its name suggests, Fur Seals were once hunted extensively for their skins, which led to large population losses, especially around New Zealand.  Thankfully, long-term protection has enabled their numbers to increase from former losses. 

These seals favour rocky coastlines, rather than sandy beaches, where crevices provide shelter for mothers to have their pups.

Milford Sound, Fiordland

Pup, Otago Peninsula



Hooker's Sea-lion (Phocarctos hookeri)

Basking female, near Nugget Point, Catlins

The Catlins coastline is the only part of mainland New Zealand where you can see this once widespread mammal.  Its main population now inhabits the subantarctic Auckland Islands, but Hooker's Sea-lion once lived around the coastline of all of New Zealand's main islands. 

It is the world's second largest sea-lion, and likes its relatives, it is only found on sandy shores, where the animals can often be seen partly 'submerged' in sand, which they throw over themselves to regulate body temperature. 

Males (bulls) are much larger, more robust and darker than the sandy-coloured females and juveniles.  These animals need to be given a large berth, as they are rapid movers and often aggressive when they feel threatened by a closely-approaching human. 

Beaches often have signs alerting you to the sea-lions' presence, with guidance on how to behave around them.