Date: 12 September 2012
New Zealand fur seals/kekeno are increasingly common in the Bay of Islands and the Department of Conservation has had many reports of seals in and around the Bay this winter.
Marine Mammals Ranger, Elke Reufels says, 'Unless a seal is being harassed by dogs or people, is entangled in marine debris, or is severely injured, the best policy is to leave them be.'
Kekeno spend much of their time on land basking in the sun on rocks. They may appear cumbersome on land, but are surprisingly agile. They can climb banks and rocky cliffs, so it is not uncommon for them to be found in odd locations. They can also travel very quickly across the ground, especially if they feel threatened.
Story continues below image
A New Zealand fur seal resting on rocks in the Bay of Islands
'Mournful weeping eyes, regurgitating food, sneezing and coughing, and flapping a flipper to cool off are all completely normal behaviours. Kekeno are amazingly resilient, they can recover quickly from quite serious injuries,' Ms Reufels explains.
'f kekeno feel threatened, they can become aggressive. Please keep a respectful 20 metres away and be careful not to come between them and the sea or between an adult and its pup. Please keep dogs under control and don’t touch kekeno as they do have a nasty bite,' advises Ms Reufels.
Kekeno are still recovering from intensive hunting in the early 1800s. They were valued as a food source and for their attractive pelts and by 1830 they were close to extinction. Sealing was finally banned in 1894 when the New Zealand Government gave kekeno full protection. Since then their numbers have been rising and gradually they are re-colonising New Zealand’s coastline.
Ms Reufels advises 'DOC’s approach with seals is based on "minimum intervention". Unless a seal is being harassed or is in obvious trouble, DOC leaves its management to the original expert, nature.'
If a member of the public considers a seal to be in danger, please contact DOC on 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).