We’re sharing more stories of Aotearoa’s incredible marine life this Seaweek!

This is Kaiako, our New Zealand fur seal, that came to Auckland Zoo as a pup after he sustained injuries to his left flipper from a boat-strike. He also has a detached lens which has meant for most of his life he’s had very limited eyesight. In recent years because of his advanced age (16 years!) he’s also developed a cataract in his other eye, meaning that he is now functionally blind with some ability to see shadows.

Our seal keepers have a great relationship with Kaiako and work with him closely to make sure that he can utilise all of his other senses – like touch, smell and of course, his hearing, and through positive reinforcement training he’s been taught to recognise and locate sound from a speaker – this is a great way to challenge and engage him in new enjoyable ways.


Watch Kaiako the New Zealand fur seal practise retrieval training at Auckland Zoo!

Of course, training like this happens through mutual trust and it doesn’t happen overnight. Before he lost his eyesight, our keepers had done retrieval work with him and started on land before moving the speaker into the pool. This was important so that Kaiako understood what was being asked of him and could confidently retrieve the floating speaker to get a fishy reward at the end (sometimes salmon heads – his favourite!).

It’s through work like this that we’re able to give elderly animals like Kaiako an amazing life in their golden years, keeping him engaged, interested and comfortable with his surroundings. If you missed our previous video with Kaiako, you can watch it here...


It’s time for a vet check with our elderly fur seal Kaiako!