The räpoka is one of the world's rarest sea lion species and can be found on the sandy beaches. They became a protected species in 1894 after being hunted to the edge of extinction.
The Catlins and the Otago Peninsular make up the largest mainland
colony of sea lions in the world; their main breeding grounds are the Sub Antarctic Islands. They are larger than the seals, have a blunt nose, and coarse fur around their neck which looks like a lions main. Other telltale signs are: their hind flippers act independently and they are not afraid of humans. Be prepared to be chased if you get too close!
The Maori Name for the New Zealand fur seals is kekeno. These
playful sea creatures love the rocky shoreline. They have a pointed nose, are typically afraid of people, and their hind flippers work together as one unit. Historically, like the sea lions, their fur was highly prized, and they were also intensely hunted. By 1900, over one million seals had been killed. They became a protected species in 1946. Today, the Nugget Point breeding colony is home to over 500 seals, which are closely monitored by the Catlins Seal Management Programme. The mothers and pups can be safely seen on the 30 minute walk out to the Nugget Point lighthouse.
Around 4pm is the ideal time to view the yellow eyed penguins from the purpose built hide at Roaring Bay. The carpark and track to the beach is just off the Nugget Point access road. The yellow eye is the third largest penguin species in the world, and it is only outsized by the Emperor and King penguins. Unlike other penguins, they are intensely territorial and like a sense of space. Each year they stake their claim on a portion of coastal property, and together with their mate for life build a nest for two eggs.
Sadly, their choice of nesting site down on the ground is easily accessed by their land based predators, stoats, dogs and feral cats see penguin eggs as a must have delicacy. They are not quite safe off shore either, as orcas and seals hunt them and they often drown in fishing nets. Just another conservation challenge where one endangered species sees another one as a tasty snack! Luckily, they all seem to live harmoniously around Nugget Point with the sea lions sticky to the sandy shores, the seals enjoying the rocky points and the Penguins nesting at Roaring Bay.