Arctocephalus forsteri, also known as the Australasian fur seal, South Australian fur seal, New Zealand fur seal, Antipodean fur seal, or long-nosed fur seal, is a fur seal species found mostly in southern Australia and New Zealand. English-speaking New Zealanders refer to the fur seal as the New Zealand fur seal. In Australia, it is called the South Australian fur seal or Forster's seal.
The species name forsteri refers to James Cook (1728–1779), a British explorer who first recorded sightings of the animal. The specific epithet honors him.
A small colony of about 250 individuals resides along the south coast of South Australia, where they can be seen around Seal Bay at Eyre Peninsula. These are believed to be the only extant colonies of A. forsteri in the world.
In addition to Australia and New Zealand, populations exist on Marion Island (Indian Ocean), Possession Island (South Pacific), and two islands within Torres Strait (between Queensland and Papua New Guinea). However, these populations are considered vulnerable/threatened, so their status may change in the future.
Australasian fur seals were widely hunted until protected by law from 1900 to 1980. Although hunting has since been prohibited, deaths due to ship collisions have become more common as the number of seals has decreased.
Today, the main threat to this species is vessel mortality.
Fur seal colonies may be found throughout the Pacific and Southern Oceans, from South Australia, Africa, and New Zealand to Peru's coast and north to California. With the exception of the northern fur seal, which has been known to travel up to 10,000 kilometres, they are mainly nonmigratory animals.
The northern fur seal was once widespread across the North American continent, but due to hunting they are now only found in Canada and the United States. They used to inhabit all of the Canadian Arctic islands except for Ellesmere Island, which was never free of ice enough for them to haul themselves ashore.
The southern fur seal was historically found along the entire Australian coastline, from Tasmania to Western Australia. Overhunting by humans caused their extinction in the wild; today they are only found in southwest Australia.
The offshore fur seal lives in coastal regions around the world from South Africa to Southeast Asia. Unlike other fur seals, which haul out on land to give birth, this species gives birth underwater. It tends to return to its birthplace every year for several years after weaning its young until it dies. This behavior is why they are found stranded on beaches worldwide during winter months when other seal species are migrating inland to find food.
Scientists believe that offshore fur seals originated in southeast Asia where there are several subspecies.
Only the Australian sea lion and the Australian and New Zealand fur seals are present on the Australian mainland and in Tasmanian seas, out of the seal species found in Australian waters. Others, such as the endangered leopard seal and southern elephant seal, can be found in Australia's Antarctic Territories. Sea lions and fur seals share similar characteristics: both are marine animals with thick black-and-white coatings that help them blend in with their surroundings. They also have flipper-like hands used for grasping items underwater.
Both the Australian sea lion and the Australian and New Zealand fur seal are members of the family Ursidae. Although they look similar, they are not related; instead, they are both part of a separate branch of the animal kingdom called "mammalia." This branch evolved separately from other mammals because it contains only two functional teeth instead of the usual three. These two creatures are the only living representatives of this ancient lineage.
Their names are derived from the fact that they resemble seals. Sealions are young seals who have not yet developed flippers and swim using their hind legs and tail. They are able to dive deep under water but cannot stay down for long because they need to surface every so often or they will suffer oxygen deprivation. Seal pups are born nearly hairless and blind, with soft pink skin that is covered in fine wrinkles. They begin to develop seal brown coloring at one week old before growing white patches due to exposure to sunlight.
The New Zealand fur seals, which have extensive colonies along the Kaikoura Peninsula, are part of that group. The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is a fantastic place to witness these colonies. Alternatively, park at the Kean Point car park at the start of the promenade, where the seals are likely to occupy the parking spaces. They can also be seen from the beach at Kean Point, but you need a decent vantage point to get a good view.
Fur seals, like all animals, react to human activity. Where hunting takes place, such as in Canada and Alaska, there are less seals because they fear for their lives. In New Zealand, however, the seal population has increased since hunters were banned from pursuing them in 1987. This is because the seals come here to give birth and raise their pups; after they wean them off milk, they will leave to find their own food.
New Zealand is a small country with large areas of wilderness, so visitors should know how to prevent disturbing the seals if they come into contact with them. There are several species of seal in New Zealand. Fur, sea, hooded, and hoary seals can be found in both coastal and deep-water environments. Visitors who encounter a seal family can stay on foot quietly and let the animals resume their business. No harm will come to them from this action!
Seals are a popular attraction in New Zealand.
The world's elephant seals are divided into two species: the Northern Elephant Seal, which lives in the eastern and northern Pacific Oceans, and the Southern Elephant Seal, which is practically circumpolar around Antarctica. In the Antarctic spring, elephant seal pups are born. They slide off their mothers' backs and float on their own until they can swim.
Southern elephant seals can weigh up to 1400 pounds (640 kg), while newborns weigh about 100 pounds (45 kg). The largest animal ever recorded was a female who died in Argentina. She weighed 3200 pounds (1450 kg) and measured 9 feet 6 inches (298 cm) from nose to tail.
Elephant seals live in groups called "crèches". There may be as few as three babies in each crèche and as many as twenty-four adults. The largest number of animals seen together in one place is usually because there's food available nearby. If there isn't any food, then the seals will travel to find something better.
There are no elephants in the Arctic, so that's why these seals get their name.
In the western Atlantic, elephant seals can be found in coastal areas where there are large rocks for them to rest on. These rocks provide protection from predators and also serve as good viewing spots if you know when to look.