A sunbathing seal pup at the Auckland Viaduct has captured the hearts of many downtown Aucklanders today.
Herald reader Kate Foxall sent through photos after she spotted the seal at the Fullers Ferry terminal this morning.
"I was walking along Quay St from the train and saw people gathered around it. The seal was confused at all the people trying to take selfies with it."
Hundreds of curious bystanders have since gathered around the viaduct to catch a glimpse of the doe-eyed seal pup, with many also snapping photos.
The seal has spent most of the day snoozing and sunbathing on some steps outside the ferry terminal.
Marine ranger for the Department of Conservation Yuin Khai Foong said spotting seals was a reflection of the population rebounding back from human impact.
"As a species we basically hunted these animals down to near extinction and they are really just returning back to where they had always been."
Last month, Papakura in South Auckland made the news after three seals were spotted in the area in less than two weeks.
"I don't think there has been anything particularly unusual about the seals this season. I know last season it was quite a successful year in terms of pupping, there's a few more around."
Mr Foong said he could not comment as to what brought the seal pup into the harbour, but said at this time of year they generally came up on land a little more.
"We are leading into winter so they are coming up on land and spending a bit more time warming up on the rocks rather than being watered out.
"They are happy on land and in the sea, and when they are in the sea at the moment they are spending a longer length of time foraging."
He said based on its size he estimated the New Zealand fur seal appeared to be around one, to one and a half years old.
Mr Foong said the seal pup may look cute, but warned it was still a wild animal.
"I appreciate there is a public interest, it is not every day Aucklanders get to see a seal at their ferry terminal, but just be really respectful they are wild animals, and they can get aggressive and they can bite.
"Don't look at the big beautiful eyes and think it is a good idea to give it a cuddle - because it really isn't."
He said the DoC took a non-invasive approach to seals.
"If they're doing something that they are naturally going to do and there's no risk to themselves, there's no risk to the public, and there is no injuries or anything like that then we'll just leave it to do what it wants to do.
"I've been really impressed with the people of downtown Auckland, they've largely left it alone... people have just been standing back and taking photos and appreciating it for what it is."
Spokeswoman for Fullers Ferry, Izania Downie, said the pup had certainly captured a few hearts.
"A lot of our staff are out there taking photos along with members of the public. We'll keep an eye on it."
Ms Downie said the seal was on a set of steps outside the tourist office.
"We're watching it and we have also put up a barrier and warning sign from the Department of Conservation so people understand how to behave around seals... and don't go down the stairs or try to touch it."
She said staff frequently spotted seals along the viaduct.
"It does happen quite regularly so our teams are quite used to dealing with it... and obviously taking precautions and making sure we know when they move off."
Furry facts about New Zealand fur seals
• On average, a fur seal will live between 14 to 17 years.
• Fur seals are found about the rocky shores of the mainland and the Chatham Islands.
• The rocky shore where they spend their time are known as haul-outs, and each year they return to the same area fro breeding season.
• The fur seal feeds on squid and small mid-water fish.
• The New Zealand fur seal is know to dive deeper and longer than any other fur seal.
Source: Department of Conservation
- additional reporting the New Zealand Herald