A ranger looking out for New Zealand sea lions

After being hunted off of the mainland of New Zealand centuries ago, a new generation of the earth’s rarest sea lion species has returned. Jim Fyfe, a ranger with the New Zealand Department of Conservation, is tasked with watching over new sea lion pups and ensuring their safety.

TRANSCRIPT

AFTER BEING HUNTED OFF OF THE MAINLAND OF NEW ZEALAND CENTURIES AGO, A NEW GENERATION OF THE EARTH'S RAREST SEA LION SPECIES HAS RETURNED.

JIM FYFE, A RANGER WITH THE NEW ZEALAND DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION, IS TASKED WITH WATCHING OVER NEW SEA LION PUPS AND ENSURING THEIR SAFETY.

OUR PARTNER SCIENCE FRIDAY BRINGS US THE STORY.

When they look like their threatening the females, they take a bit of exception, but it's just letting you know that that's his girl you're not going to get anywhere near it.

That's Anookie, a four year old female from the local population.

It's mating season so we might be expecting a pup next year.

The East Coast of the South Island of Zealand the Otago Peninsula with it brings a whole lot of productivity in wildlife: yellow-eyed penguin, royal albatross, and most recently the return of the New Zealand sea lions.

New Zealand sea lions are an endemic sea lion that were once widespread all around New Zealand.

800 or 900 years ago, the New Zealand mainland species was hunted to extinction.

And the only surviving subspecies was down in the south.

They came really really close to extension.

The survival of one individual can make a real difference to a species.

Mum arrived in the late 80's early 90's, as a young, female sea lion.

It may have just been one of those random events that happened in life.

Before Mama arrived, there would have been no breeding on the New Zealand mainland for at least two hundred years and I would say up to three hundred years.

Mum was responsible for bringing seas lions back to the mainland.

This is a species which used to be here.

We drove them off shore.

They've decided to come back.

And that's what's so exciting.

So we now have an opportunity to redress the damage that we did.

We're looking forward to another good season, we had eleven pups last season, this season we're hoping for maybe a dozen.

This is Anookie, a young four year old female.

But this male kept her up here for some time.

This is pretty dangerous because the males holding here in the sufe side.

A number of females will be killed each year being held under water for too long while the males try to mate with them.

That's why i'm a bit worried here, ill just stay and keep on eye on her.

She must be pretty exhausted by now.

It's good to see her sitting up right now with her head out of the water.

And this is part of the breeding process, dangerous as it looks, it's part of the chain of life.

Let's walk along and see if there's any tracks going up into the dunes.

They got a good sense of smell and they're coming up along the coast and trying to sniff out those females.

If a male does find them, they can get held captive by them for a period of time and not be able to get back to their pack.

Obviously, it's a worry for the female sea lions so it's a worry for us.

Look at this, somebody has come through here.

I'll sneak in there and see if I can get an ID on him 6f10007.

The pup is at least a week old, loving the contact with it's mother.

It's an important bonding time for mom and pup, they will be together for the next year, at two years.

They need to be able to recognize the pup from it's calls, from the smell.

She can't afford to be held hostage.

She's got to get back to her pup to feed it.

Two or three days of being held hostage by a male could really compromise the health of the pup.

We try and keep track of where the females are going to have their pups.

The main reason is if they have their pups in an area where there are threats, we can manage the threats that their pup are born into.

A pup was found the other day in open farmland and quite exposed, it doesn't have the protection from the weather that vegetation will provide.

The females are having to go into farmland to hide, going into areas that don't have idea habitat for the pup.

We could easily provide simple shelters and that sort of thing that might assist the survival of pups.

I've got to say that sea lions are now my favorite animal in the world.

They're just a really interesting animal to get to know and to think that we might have even lost that opportunity.

Sea lions are constantly gonna be there to challenge us and be asking the questions, are you big enough for me?