Saturday, November 27, 2021

    A secluded waterfall in New Zealand serves as a playground for young seals

    The scenic Ohau Waterfall on New Zealand’s Kaikoura coast is the world’s only waterfall that also serves as a seal creche, a location where young marine animals can play and socialise without fear of predators.

    Ohau is a horsetail waterfall that stands 15 metres tall (the water maintains contact with the bedrock as it falls). It’s not the most visually appealing waterfall in the world, but it does have something no other land waterfall does: beautiful seals. The tiny pool at the bottom of Ohau waterfall serves as a creche for dozens of New Zealand fur seal pups for one to three months out of the year. The newborn seals learn crucial behaviours and social skills by playing and interacting with one another, all while providing a wonderful sight for human visitors.


    Photo: Bernard Spragg/Wikimedia Commons

    Around 3,000 New Zealand Fur seals live at the Ohau Point Seal Colony on the South Island’s Kaikokura coast (Arctocephalus forsteri). Puppies are often born in November and can be spotted swimming up a stream inland by April. The creek goes to Ohau Waterfall, where the lagoon at the bottom serves as a nursery for the baby seals.

    From June through August, you may observe the charming creatures chasing each other through the pool, playing with sticks, or simply relaxing on the damp rocks. Every few days, the pups will return to the coast to refill their energy levels by drinking some of their mother’s milk before returning to the celebration.

    Interestingly, Ohau Waterfall is located on private land, but the owners recognise the significance of this seal creche and share it with the rest of the world, enabling tourists to stop by and see the seals.

    Unfortunately, this special seal creche is not what it used to be. The 2016 earthquake that rocked New Zealand caused serious damage to the waterfall, and it is no longer considered safe to visit.

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