Momoa the elephant seal has left the Eastern Bay.

Last seen a week ago, it is believed the seal headed out under the cover of darkness in search of food.

The two-and-a-half tonne beast had been vacationing at local beaches and in the Whakatāne River during the Christmas/New Year period but has not been seen since January 3, disappointing people who did not have the opportunity to see him while he was here.

Department of Conservation senior ranger, biodiversity, Andrew Glaser said Momoa probably swam out to deeper water during the night of the third.


"He was seen about 9pm that night and hasn't been seen since," Glaser said.

"They [elephant seals] feed in deeper water with strong currents. Once the seal gets into one of those currents, he could end up anywhere.

"While it was great having the elephant seal here, it was probably time for him to move on. He had become quite curious and playful with kayakers in the river and also got a little amorous with a vehicle.

"It's not hard to see that two-and-a-half tonne of playfulness could be dangerous," Glaser said.

"He was definitely quite a character. I watched him tugging on a rope in the harbour and also playing with a buoy, he was having a great time."

Glaser said it would have been impossible to predict how long the seal would have stayed around for.

"We did have a female elephant seal that stayed near Bryans Beach in Ohiwa for several weeks at the end of 2017 and into 2018. But she was moulting [shedding her outer layer of hair and skin] which does take about a month."

It was initially thought Momoa was moulting but that may not have been the case.

Momoa the elephant seal's Whakatāne holiday appears to have come to an end. Photo / Supplied Photo / a
Momoa the elephant seal's Whakatāne holiday appears to have come to an end. Photo / Supplied Photo / a

Hundreds of people seized the opportunity to see the seal while he was in Whakatāne with many travelling to do so. People are still looking for him near the Whakatāne Yacht Club where he spent most of his time.

The Facebook page set up for Momoa is also full of posts asking if he's still around.

"I don't believe there's much of a chance he'll come back but never say never," Glaser said.