Fun New Zealand Sea Lion Facts For Kids

Aashita Dhingra
Feb 29, 2024 By Aashita Dhingra
Originally Published on Sep 02, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Kidadl Team
Check out these amazing New Zealand sea lion facts that you won't believe!
Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.4 Min

The New Zealand sea lion belongs to the Otariidae family and is from the order Carnivora. These sea lions, also known as the hooker's sea lion and wahkahao, live in New Zealand, and their habitat consists of sub-Antarctic New Zealand, Auckland Islands, Dundas Island, and Campbell Islands. There are around 10,000 New Zealand sea lions and they are the rarest sea lion species. New Zealand sea lions in captivity are quite rare as their population is decreasing.

New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) show sexual dimorphism and are among the largest animals in the sea of New Zealand. These marine creatures are highly philopatric but still the most threatened species of New Zealand due to various factors like diseases, subsistence hunting, commercial sealing, food limitation, and water pollution. Earlier, people hunted them not only for their meat but also for their skin to manufacture various products. Their conservation status is Not Extinct, but IUCN has listed them on their Red List as Vulnerable.

You can also learn about other animals with our hoary marmot facts and kiang facts.

New Zealand Sea Lion Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a New Zealand sea lion?

New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) are a type of sea lion. They look a bit similar to seals and sea lions.

What class of animal does a New Zealand sea lion belong to?

New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) belong to class Mammalia and phylum Chordata.

How many are New Zealand sea lions there in the world?

There are only 10,000 New Zealand sea lions left. They are protected by the National Parks and Wildlife Reserves through the wildlife act of 1972. Earlier, the population of these marine creatures could be observed on beaches around the coast of North Island and down to Sub-Antarctic islands. Today, their population is decreasing rapidly.

Where does a New Zealand Sea Lion live?

New Zealand sea lions can be found on Auckland Islands, Dundas Island, Campbell Islands, and Stewart Island coastline. These species have breeding colonies in Campbells island.

What is a New Zealand sea lion's habitat?

New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) live in Sub-Antarctic islands and the surrounding waters. They are also found on the southeast coast of Otago. Some populations of hooker's sea lions also reside on Stewart Island. Sea lions are one of the rarest species in New Zealand.

Who do New Zealand sea lions live with?

New Zealand sea lions usually live in groups and they form pairs and groups during the breeding season. The female hooker's sea lions are known to live with their pups.

How long does a New Zealand sea lion live?

New Zealand sea lions are not kept in captivity and hence the lifespan estimated for hooker's sea lions is around 23 years.

How do they reproduce?

New Zealand sea lions have a polygynous mating system in nature. For pup production, males form a harem during the breeding season and mate on sandy beaches where there will be one dominant male and up to 25 females. The gestation period of these marine creatures is around 11 months and in late January, these harems disperse and the female will give birth to a single pup at a time. After the pups are born, they are completely dependent on their mother for food and protection. The male will start forming harems again before mating between November and December.

What is their conservation status?

The New Zealand sea lion's conservation status is Endangered. Earlier, it was declared by the Department of Conservation that the sea lions in Auckland were becoming critically endangered and will soon be extinct. Their conservation status as per IUCN is Endangered because they are threatened by various factors like hunting and commercial fishing, certain diseases, food limitation, and fishing activity.

New Zealand Sea Lion Fun Facts

What do New Zealand sea lions look like?

New Zealand sea lions have a body coloration of dark brown to gray and black.

Male New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) are dark brown or black and have a mane, whereas females are light gray and yellow. Pups are light brown in coloration, resembling their mother. Their total body length is 94.4-137.7 in (240-350 cm) among males and 70.8-78.7 in (180-200 cm) among females. Australian sea lions are quite similar to this sea lion species.

How cute are they?

New Zealand sea lions look very cute and have a good temperament, making this species even more adorable. Sea lion pups are even cuter and more adorable than the adults.

How do they communicate?

The means of communication between New Zealand sea lions are unknown. However, the California sea lion is believed to have similar communication gestures and sounds, they use vocal communication to express emotions like territorial ownership and readiness to fight.

How big is a New Zealand sea lion?

The total body length of these animals differs between males and females. New Zealand sea lion males generally have a total body length of around 94.4-137.7 in (240-350 cm), whereas females can reach between 70.8-78.7 in (180-200 cm) in length. They are slightly bigger than Steller sea lions.

How fast can a New Zealand sea lion move?

They can move up to 16 knots, which is 18 mph (28.9 kph) underwater and when they are on land or beaches, they can move at a speed of 30 knots, which is 35 mph (56.3 kph). They weigh less and are smaller than leopard seals.

How much does a New Zealand sea lion weigh?

The male generally weighs between 710–990 lb (322-449 kg), while females can weigh around 198–364 lb (89.8-165.1 kg). Pups usually weigh around 15.4–17.6 lb (7-8 kg) at birth.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no sex-specific names for males and females of this species.

What would you call a baby New Zealand sea lion?

Young New Zealand sea lions are called pups. Pups are very cute and usually live with their mother until they reach adulthood.

What do they eat?

New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) have a diet consisting of arrow squid, sardines, marine mammals, and even squid and octopus. Hooker's sea lion (Phocarctos hookeri) may also feed on fur seals in New Zealand.

Are they dangerous?

New Zealand sea lions pose a great threat to small marine mammals as they feed on them and sometimes on fur seals or other species of sea lions. They can be quite aggressive, especially the males.

Would they make a good pet?

No, sea lions aren't considered pets as they require large bodies of water and prefer to stay in the wild, near seas and beaches.

Did you know...

These marine animals indulge in cannibalism.

Why are they called Hooker's Sea Lion?

Hooker sea lions were named after Sir Joseph Hooker, who was a botanist in Auckland in 1844.

Why is the New Zealand sea lion important?

These wild New Zealand sea lions are of great importance as they serve as indicators of ecosystem change and may also help synthesize the marine environment.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Asian small-clawed otter facts and American beaver facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable New Zealand sea lion coloring pages.

New Zealand Sea Lion Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Fish, cephalopods, crustaceans, seabirds, marine mammals

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?

1 pup

How Much Did They Weigh?

Adult male- 710–990 lb (322-449 kg) Adult female- 198–364 lb (89.8-165.1 kg)

What habitat Do they Live In?


Where Do They Live?

new zealand

How Long Were They?

Adult males- 94.4-137.7 in (240-350 cm)Adult females- 70.8-78.7 in (180-200 cm)‍

How Tall Were They?








Scientific Name

Phocarctos hookeri

What Do They Look Like?

Brown, gray, cream, black, brown

Skin Type

Thin, smooth fur

What Are Their Main Threats?

diseases, commercial fisheries, pollution

What is their Conservation Status?

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Written by Aashita Dhingra

Bachelors in Business Administration

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Aashita DhingraBachelors in Business Administration

Based in Lucknow, India, Aashita is a skilled content creator with experience crafting study guides for high school-aged kids. Her education includes a degree in Business Administration from St. Mary's Convent Inter College, which she leverages to bring a unique perspective to her work. Aashita's passion for writing and education is evident in her ability to craft engaging content.

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