The New Zealand sea lion, also known as rāpoka or whakahao, is one of the rarest sea lion species in the world. It is a unique species found exclusively in New Zealand, with a population of approximately 12,000 individuals.
The New Zealand sea lion is more than just a cute face - there are lots of intriguing features that make this creature special. Here are some things that you might not know about this amazing marine mammal.
1. Unique Physical Features
The New Zealand sea lion is distinguishable from other native marine mammals due to its size and physical features. They have a distinctive broad head, long snout, and large eyes. They are larger than New Zealand fur seals and can be found on sandy beaches in New Zealand, while fur seals are typically found on rocky shorelines.
New Zealand sea lions have sexual dimorphism, i.e. males and females are physically different. Male sea lions are notably larger and darker than females. You can see that in the photos on this page, the one at the top is a female and the one below a male
3. National Vulnerability
The New Zealand sea lion's conservation status is listed as nationally vulnerable. This means that the species is facing high risk of extinction in the medium term.
4. Endemic Species
The New Zealand sea lion is an endemic species, meaning that it is only found in New Zealand. Archaeological evidence suggests that they were once present all around the New Zealand coastline.
5. Found in Various Locations
While most of the population of New Zealand sea lions are now found on our sub-Antarctic islands, particularly Auckland and Campbell Islands, there are emerging breeding locations at Stewart Island/Rakiura, Otago, and Southland regions.