Pinniped Species


New Zealand Sea Lion

Scientific Name: Phocarctos hookeri
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora – Pinnipedia
Family: Otariidae
Genus: Phocarctos
Species: Phocarctos Hookeri
Other Common Names: New Zealand sea lion, Hooker’s sea lion
Average Length:

Male: 8-11.5 ft
Female: 5-6.5 ft

Average Weight:

Male: 440-880 lbs
Female: 220-350 lbs


The New Zealand sea lion inhabits sandy beaches of Southern New Zealand. Breeding occurs near the Auckland Islands and Campbell Islands south of the mainland of New Zealand. During mating season between November and January there is little migration. After January, these sea lions may migrate up to 100 miles away from the breeding islands to find food.


Male New Zealand sea lions range in color from dark brown to black. Females are a much lighter shade of grey or yellow. New Zealand sea lions can be distinguished from other sea lion species because their heads are relatively shorter in length. 

Diet in the Wild:

Their main food source is the Arrow squid. They also eat red cod, opal fish, octopus and shark.


Many New Zealand sea lions like to stay on the sandy shores of Southern New Zealand and only dive to depths of 650 feet to find food.


The mating season of this species lasts for only a few months and occurs during the Southeastern Hemisphere’s summer. Males start to claim their territory on the mating islands in November, the females join them in December and the breeding season ends in January. Females reach sexual maturity between three to six years of age, and males between eight and nine.

Conservation Status:

They are listed as critical and/or vulnerable.

Threats in the Wild:

Their diet consists mainly of Arrow squid, which is also fished for by humans. As a result New Zealand sea lions can get caught in fishing nets. The New Zealand government has stepped in and put a limit on the number of sea lions that can be accidentally caught by fishermen, and if a fishing company surpasses the limit, they must shut down until the next fishing season.

Fun Facts:

The Red-Billed gull may be found sitting on the backs of New Zealand sea lions, picking bugs off of them.


To cite this page: Ferland, D. 2013. "Phocarctos hookeri" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 30, 2013 at