New Zealand Sea Lion / Rapoka / Whakahao

New Zealand Sea Lion / Rapoka / Whakahao

Photo courtesy of Andrew Maloney

New Zealand sea lion/ rāpoka is one of the rarest and most endangered species of sea lion in the world. Evidence suggests that New Zealand sea lions were found along the entire New Zealand west coast but numbers were decimated during the fur trade of the 1800s.  Today 70% of pups are born on only three islands.  In 1993, a female sea lion nicknamed “Mum” decided to have her pup on an Otago Peninsula beach. This was the first sea lion born on the mainland in over 100 years.

Currently a threat management plan is being developed to better support species recovery.  Potential threats are many and varied including fishing, tourism, pollution, coastal development and disease.  Recovery of the New Zealand sea lion involves long-term well planned species management.

Species: rāpoka (females) / whakahao (males) / New Zealand Sea Lion / Phocarctos hookeri
Location: found mainly on beaches in Otago and Southland areas and New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands
Status: Nationally critical (highest threat classification) in New Zealand
Threats:  A Threat management plan will soon  be released

Taking action to conserve the New Zealand Sea Lion

As part of our Wild Futures program, Conservation Volunteers New Zealand will be working in partnership with the Department of Conservation and the New Zealand Sea Lion Trust to help create a Wild Future for the New Zealand Sea Lion. We will help the recovery of the New Zealand Sea Lion by:

  • Monitoring of New Zealand sea lion numbers
  • Habitat restoration
  • Education

Description and Distribution

The New Zealand sea lion has a blunt nose and short whiskers.  Mature males (length 2.4-3.5 m, weight 250-400 kg) are brown to black in colour with well-developed manes reaching to the shoulders.  Females (length 1.6-2.0 m, weight 100-160 kg) are lighter in colour, predominantly creamy grey with darker pigmentation around their flippers.  Pups of both sexes are chocolate brown with paler areas around the head.

Sea lions are found mainly on beaches in Otago and Southland areas but many are now on New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands.

Help save the New Zealand Sea Lion

You can be a part of this important recovery effort by volunteering to help the New Zealand Sea Lion or donating to our Wild Futures program to ensure that they have a Wild Future.

We make it easy for people to make a difference and help secure the New Zealand sea lion in the wild.


Would you like to give the New Zealand sea lion a wild future? You can do so by donating through our secure online system.


By volunteering on one of our field projects, you can make a practical contribution and help give the New Zealand Sea Lion a Wild Future.

Further information

View New Zealand Sea Lion on the Department of Conservation website (add link to DOC page below)