Not often does one plan to sink a boat – but this time that was the plan, and now Auckland Zoo’s seals have an exciting, enriching underwater environment.

Kaiako and Orua are our resident seals at ‘The Coast’, both brought in to be rehabilitated and were unable to return to the wild. With both originally blind in one eye, Kaiako’s boat injuries, and further age-related vision loss, our seal team is certainly kept on their toes when coming up with ways to keep their environment and lives enriching.


Why sink a boat for fur seals!?

In a great example of reusing and repurposing, seal keeper Odin dreamt up a use for our old boat – giving it new life as an enriching addition for our fur seals Kaiako and Orua’s home.

While all of Auckland Zoo’s animals play important advocacy roles for their wild counterparts, it’s important we enhance their behaviours and environments, encouraging them to act as they would in the wild. This can mean making them forage for their food, taking them for walks, changing up their environment, and giving them toys and puzzles that encourage them to play, think and use their strength.

Our seals have had a change of environment lately, thanks to creative seal keeper Odin and the exceptional seal team, who have found a purpose for an old boat well past its best before date!

As our seals age, our keepers are always looking at new ways to enhance and enrich their lives, especially ways that use their more prominent senses – physical touch and sound. With Kaiako’s low-vision, most of his visual training cues have evolved into verbal and physical cues, and our keepers ensure their environment is ever-changing with new objects, textures and obstacles, and with the encouragement of our keepers they learn that it’s safe to investigate and understand what these new things are.  

Seal keeper Odin cut a hole out of the base of the boat, sunk it into the enclosure, and then taught the clever boys how to interact with it, showing them it’s just a fun new obstacle to swim through. Inserting obstacles like this into the water will change up their swimming patterns, which is really important for their enrichment. The plan is to move the boat around the enclosure in the future to keep things new and interesting.

On your next zoo trip, visit the boys at the coast and watch their swimming skills from our underwater viewing window. When you purchase a ticket to Auckland Zoo you are supporting the work we do rehabilitating, and in some instances rehoming injured New Zealand wildlife.