Hooker Sea Lions – Enderby Island, New Zealand 2018

We had sailed from Bluff on the south coast of New Zealand’s South Island heading towards the Subantarctic Islands.

Enderby Island is one of the northerly islands of the Auckland Islands. This archipelago was formed from two volcanoes and the remains of the calderas are clear to see. Enderby Island resulted from the northerly flow of larva from the eruption. We landed at Sandy Bay and spent a very pleasant day exploring the area.  In the undergrowth, behind the beach, Yellow-eyed Penguins had made their nests.

On the beach was a breeding colony of New Zealand (or Hooker) Sea Lions split into three hareems each with their dominant male. The beach was a positive hive of activity: bulls chasing away ambitious younger males, then chasing females whilst pups tried to keep out of the way. Dotted along the beach were creches of pups sheltering in gullies in the sand dunes.

The New Zealand (or Hookers) Sea lions are the only Sea Lion restricted to South New Zealand waters and are the rarest of all Sea Lions. Sadly, their numbers appear to be in decline probably because of the nearby squid fishery. The males are heavy and dark brown to blackish brown and are considerably larger than the much paler females. The big beach master bulls guard their hareem vigorously from approaching males although most interactions are mostly ritualistic. The sub adult males practice sparring almost all of the time. The pups are sexually dimorphic at birth: males are chocolate brown whilst females are much paler.