'Momoa' the elephant seal makes Whakatane park his home for the week

Holidaymakers flock to the Bay of Plenty over the summer months - but there's one new visitor who isn't like any of the others.

A giant male elephant seal has been hanging out near Whakatane for the past week, and is creating quite a stir with his antics.

He's been standing out from the locals, and keeping Department of Conservation (DoC) staff very busy.

"He's having a holiday, but he's interfering with my holiday," lamented DoC's Jade King-Hazel.

Usually found in sub-antarctic waters, it's thought the seal has made his way down to the Whakatane River from Auckland.

From his size, it's hard to believe he isn't fully grown.

"He is a young elephant seal, so we think he might be a couple-of-years-old," Ms King-Hazel said. "We base that off his snout, so obviously he's not a full grown male because the snout's not quite that big."

Like a proper tourist, the curious creature has been taking a good look around the neighbourhood, and putting on quite the show for anyone who comes to take a look.        

"He's like a big blob; he looks, like, really sludgy," one young girl remarked.

"He's way bigger than we thought - he's huge," said another onlooker.

He's attracted crowds in Whakatane, but DoC is reminding anyone who wants to come and catch a glimpse of this elephant seal to stand back - because he can move pretty fast.

"Make sure dogs are on leads, take care of little ones, and just respect the animal and give him his space - and he will respect you," Ms King-Hazel said.

As far as a name for the visitor, there has been one suggestion.

"We had a group of local kids that came down yesterday and some local people from the local hapu, and they were saying we want to call him Momoa," Ms King-Hazel said.

Jason Momoa just happens to be playing superhero Aquaman in an upcoming film.

This aqua pup isn't the only elephant seal to make themselves at home in suburbia - not long before Christmas, another camped out on Auckland Mission Bay beach. And they can be destructive too, like the world-famous Homer, who visited Gisborne 18 years ago.

So far, Whakatane's seal is just being a nosey parker, and he's certainly looking pretty comfy in the park.


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