new zealand fur seals
new zealand fur seal Image: Bernard Spragg
public domain

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    forsteri
    Genus
    Arctocephalus
    Family
    Otariidae
    Order
    Carnivora
    Class
    Mammalia
    Phylum
    Chordata
  • Size Range
    Up to 250 cm

Grey to brown with long white whiskers and dark tan ears; males much larger than females.

Identification

A medium-sized seal with long, white whiskers and dark tan ears. Females are metallic on the back; paler underneath with a brown belly. Males have dark grey-brown dorsal fur, a pale muzzle, a pointed snout and a thick mane of long guard hairs. Males are much larger than females; around three times heavier. Pups are dark brown with silvery-grey fur on the head and neck.

Habitat

Rocky coastlines and offshore islands characterised by large, jumbled angular rocks, boulder-strewn beaches, smooth rock platforms and some vegetated areas.

Distribution

Southern and eastern Australia.



Feeding and diet

It feeds mainly on fish, cephalopods and seabirds such as penguins.

Breeding behaviours

An “eared” seal which forms breeding colonies in New Zealand and its Subantarctic islands, the coasts and islands off southern Australia including Macquarie Island. Non-breeding animals are also known from New South Wales, Queensland and New Caledonia. Mating occurs from mid-November to mid-January and births occur a year later. Females give birth from 4-6 years of age and live for up to 26 years. Males mature at 5-6 years of age, hold territories and mate from 8-9 years, and live up to 15 years in the wild. A small proportion of males defend territories, generally containing around 5-8 females.

Conversation status

This species was decimated by commercial sealing in the late 18th and early 19th century but numbers have now increased to around 80,000 in Australia.

Predators

Known predators include sharks, orcas, leopard seals, New Zealand sea lions, and humans.