This incredible journey enabled Kaiako to learn how to use his injured flipper, and he was able to be managed and cared for extremely well medically and behaviourally by his keepers and to enjoy a great quality of life. However, due to his elbow joint injury, Kaiako went on to develop chronic arthritis, and over time also eye issues, eventually becoming blind. In recent months, and especial over the past few week, he was monitored very closely. Despite every supportive treatment that could be given, Kaiako’s deterioration over the past week, meant that the kindest and only right thing to do, was to put him to sleep. His post-mortem examination also confirmed severe arthritis in his hips.
Auckland Zoo’s team leader of Elephants and Seals says Kaiako was a truly remarkable animal whose respect you really had to earn, and “the reward of a fish was not always enough!”
“Kaiako taught us so much through his rehabilitation. Getting him to eat dead fish and giving him physio to bring back a floppy flipper to one working how it should, were just some of the learnings. Later, he blew us away again, when his sight began to go, and we transitioned him from visual to verbal cues for his training – something that assisted in his care, and was challenging and stimulating,” says Andrew
“We shared Kaiako’s story with visitors at every encounter we did with our fur seals – many millions of people over his lifetime. He was a prime example of human-wildlife conflict, and a true ambassador for his wild counterparts. Like our Sub-Antarctic fur seal Orua continues to do, he wowed all of us and our visitors with his species’ phenomenal agility both underwater and on land - especially when he’d easily haul himself up onto the high rock stacks in our beach area. As keepers, diving with tanks underwater to clean their pool, we saw just how adapted they are for their water environment, and we aren’t! Kaiako was an absolute pleasure to work with and care for, and we’re really going to miss him, but he leaves a great legacy.”