New Zealand Fur Seal (Kekeno)

Kekeno or the New Zealand fur seal are what you are most likely to encounter around the Kaikoura coastline and they are the most abundant seal species in New Zealand.

Their ability to rotate their hind flippers forward makes them perfectly apt for living in rocky haul out sites around the Kaikoura peninsular. Another distinguishing feature is the external ears which they possess, different to that of other NZ seal species such as the leopard seal or the NZ sea lion.

You can expect to encounter kekeno on all our tours, often showing off their amazing swimming ability, photogenic poses and curiosity towards the kayaks.

Here are a few quick facts to help upskill you on the New Zealand fur seal.

  • Generous population estimates put Kekeno numbers at anywhere between 300,000 to 400,000. Due to the influence of European settlers (and the ease at which you could hunt a seal) there numbers decreased to somewhere around the 15,000 mark in the mid to late 1800’s, a sharp fall from grace from the 2 million seals that once called New Zealand home
  • Females seals can reach 1.5m long and weigh between 40-80kg.
  • Adults can reach a ma length of 2.5m and weigh between 90-180kg
  • Feed mostly at night on squid and midwater fish such as hoki, lantern fish, barracuda.
  • Can dive up to 250m deep and hold their breath for up to 11 minutes.
  • A female fur seal is sexually mature at 3-4 years old and will give birth to a single pup every single year until they die.
  • Have the ability to thermoregulate their body temperatures through a process called “jugging” where they lie in the water and place one flipper skyward in orer to catch as much sunlight as possible.
  • They can swallow small stones and rocks to act as a ballast when doing deep dives and they also assist with the digestion of fish bones and squid beaks.

Viewing Seals

When viewing seals around the Kaikoura peninsula or anywhere in NZ make sure to stay at least 20m away. Be sure not to feed them or disturb their natural behaviour in any way. It is normal for seals to cough, splutter and sneeze as well as fight with each other. Please keep animals, especially dogs away.

More Kaikōura Wildlife

Learn more about the wildlife you'll see on one of our Seal Kayak Kaikoura tours.

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