Whakatāne's resident elephant seal Momoa was spotted hanging out at the river mouth, prompting speculation he would soon depart for cooler water.

But instead Momoa has heaved his two-and-a-half-tonne bulk upriver and is back to lounging and entertaining the crowds continuing to flock to see him.

Not so keen on the seal's extended stay are staff and volunteers on 24-hour seal watch in an attempt to keep him and the public safe.

On 24-hour watch, Department of Conservation (DoC) ranger Andrew Glaser said Momoa was absorbing a few resources.


"We were hopeful his rest at the river mouth may have been followed by a swim out to the currents but that hasn't been the case and now he's back in the river spending time between the Eivers Rd walkway and the Whakatāne bridges," Glaser said.

Momoa was also spotted in a swampy area close to the Orini Canal after he had been missing in action for four days.

"We thought he may have left Whakatāne then but he was seen and his presence reported to us by a member of the public."

Glaser said he didn't know whether Momoa was still moulting or whether he had taken a shine to his surroundings.

"When elephant seals are moulting they do things like throw sand up over themselves and scratch up against rocks while in the water. He looks to still be doing these things."

Although most people who come to visit Momoa are respectful and abide by the rules imposed by DoC, as always there are exceptions to the rule.

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"We've had a number of instances, often fuelled by alcohol, where people have sought out the seal and got far too close," Glaser said.

"Not only do they pose a risk to the seal, they also pose a risk to themselves."

DoC staff have been helped by a team from Project Jonah and a crew of Whakatāne locals eager to lend a hand.

"Overall, spectators have been well-behaved but we are keeping a round-the-clock eye on Momoa which is a bit of a stretch at times."

He urged people to ring DoC if they saw anyone acting dangerously around Momoa.

"Please take a note of anything that would be helpful to identify [those] responsible."

DoC staff believe once Momoa has finished moulting and his new layer of fur is exposed, he will leave our shores.