Momoa the elephant seal appears to believe Whakatāne is a great weekend spot.
The seal first showed up in the Eastern Bay in the days prior to Christmas 2018 and has, since then, been entertaining the droves of people who have flocked from around the country to catch a glimpse of him.
Not only did he have a presence in Whakatāne, Momoa gained an online presence after local woman Kim Le'Bagge started a Facebook page so people could share photos and the location of the seal.
In February it was thought Momoa had departed our shores, but he was soon spotted again. In early March people were convinced he had left as he hadn't been seen for some weeks – but that was until Friday.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
On Friday he was once again languishing on Coastlands beach and photographed by Whakatāne photographer Roz Anderson.
Department of Conservation (DoC) biodiversity ranger Mithuna Sothieson said it had been a surprise to learn the seal had returned.
"We had hoped he had departed for waters further south," Sothieson said. "I would say, judging by the length of time he has been absent for, he has left and returned as opposed to have been hiding somewhere close by.
"Who knows what he has been up though," she laughed. "Looking at the photos [taken of the seal during the weekend] it appears he may have grown some hair, he definitely looks a little different from when he was last here."
Not seen since Saturday, Sothieson said he had possibly taken off again.
"If he does return, we ask people to give him space - a minimum of 20m - keep dogs tied up around him and not try and feed him. He's a wild animal and doing what he pleases at the moment, people need to not forget that."
She said DoC would only intervene with cordons if they felt it was necessary.