Two New Zealand fur seal pups … Born on opposite sides of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s a battle field where less than 60 percent of pups make it to their first birthday. Some pups are trampled by males fighting for the right to mate … or swept out to sea before they learn to swim. Others starve to death when their mothers fail to return from a feeding trip. Our pups must learn fast if they are to beat these odds. We follow the first few months of their lives as they struggle to learn the secrets of survival.
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Two New Zealand fur seal pups born into two distinct worlds one in a marine Paradise where fur seals Thrive the other on an isolated island surrounded by Violent Waves.
Yeah and deadly sharks this is their story following the first few months of their lives as they learn about their different worlds and discover.
The secrets of survival one the spectacular kaikoura Coast on the Eastern side of New Zealand South Island where the Southern Alps meet the Pacific Ocean oh hell point on the kaikoura coast is.
Home to a thriving fur seal rookery it's a great place to raise a family the offshore waters are rich in food the weather is benign especially in summer when the female seals bear their young and there are plenty of rock pools where adolescent seals can learn to socialize with life this good it's not surprising.
The seals have to share their strip of paradise a permanent population of Dusky dolphins live and play in the productive offshore Waters while I'm sure 6 000 breeding Redfield girls keep up an almost constant chatter as they try to defend their territory the fur seals are one of the newest.
Inhabitants to this Coastal Paradise re-established after 19th century sealers almost brought the species to Extinction deals have been coming here to feed for at least 50 years but females have only come here to give birth since the 1990s starting with only about 50 pups.
The Colony has experienced a population explosion around 2000 pups are now born here including this little boy who arrived just a few days ago and is already curious about his world but there's a flip side to this paradise the young male has been born into.
Within eight days of giving birth females are ready to mate again and the male's testosterone kicks in making it a dangerous place for an adventurous young male still learning the ways of his world only dominant males that control a harem get to mate.
and they must constantly defend their territory against Invaders each dominant male controls an area of about 90 square meters with up to eight females to defend during the breeding season which can.
Last for 6 to 10 weeks rules must be on guard night and day to fend off Intruders they don't even stop to eat or drink it's a war zone where innocent pups can pay a heavy price it is in the thick of a fight that the.
Young male gets his first harsh lesson curiosity can kill if you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time fortunately his Mum comes to his Aid.
His dunking was not intentional injuries are just collateral damage during the breeding season the males are only her sea at the end of the season the secret to survival is staying out of their way until then.
the young male pup has a lot to learn about the world he's been born into foreign the males over the next two months he might just make it to adulthood the mail pup's home is 2 200 kilometers to the east of Australia.
On the northeast coast of New Zealand's South Island 420 kilometers away on the other side of the South Island are the open Bay Islands here is a very different world the islands are only five kilometers from the coast but it may as well be five thousand.
So remote and rough are these Waters even in the middle of summer the weather can take a sudden turn the worse despite this the islands are home to one of New Zealand's largest fur seal breeding colonies with up to 4 000 members and around 1 000 pups are born here each year.
But with abundance Danger during the breeding season great white sharks Patrol the waters around the islands waiting for one of their favorite meals pop mortality is high here and not just because of the sharks.
Starvation drowning and even Suffocation take their toll well for some pups the danger begins before they're even born most New Zealand fur seal pups are born after a short labor his mother has been in labor now for at least seven hours.
With no sign of her pup is in labor the greater the chance her pup might be born too weak to survive or Worse be still born her life is also in jeopardy then the weather packs in finally a flipper appears.
Not the pup's head which means it's a breach with the delay but even then she should have given birth hours ago a Lusty male pays her a visit but he soon realizes that she's unable to mate.
at last more of the pup is emerging then with a final heroic effort the pup is born it's a girl but she's exhausted and barely moving.
Scavengers jockey for position start for two fur seal pups born on opposite sides of New Zealand's South Island has learned that even Paradise has its dark side while the female endured a tough birth in an equally tough location.
But the morning brings a change of Fortune for the inhabitants of the open Bay Islands stilly blasts are common here on the edge of the Tasman Sea but today is almost idyllic like the Bulls on the kaikoura coast dominant males are fighting to defend.
Their territory from Intruders in stark contrast to the drama on the foreshore Inland the juvenile males have gathered they're sexually mature but they're barred from the breeding grounds by the dominant Bulls who won't share females.
All they can do is practice postures that threaten aggression it'll be a few more years till they are big enough to challenge the older bulls and start their own Harin meanwhile the little girl has recovered from the birth ordeal miraculously well and while she suckles from her mother a battle for the placenta begins.
First scenes sometimes eat their own placenta it's a rich food source for a new mother for today a girl and a wicker are fighting for possession the girl may be visiting from the mainland while the weka is a permanent resident an endemic species of the New Zealand.
Mainland weka were possibly introduced to these islands as a food source by settlers or local Maori sometime in the early 1900s unable to fly they've been marooned here ever since they are opportunistic feeders but there is a hierarchy between these.
Two scavengers and the sneaky way s work around the more dominant girl foreign gets her chance It's A Feast for the whole family man the flightless worker might be an unexpected inhabitant of an isolated offshore island.
But they are not the only creatures sharing the little girl's home there can be hundreds of crested penguins migratory shareholders and little blue penguins all sharing these two Rocky Islands an area of less than 30 hectares the continental shelf runs close to.
These Shores bringing cold nutrient-rich water to the surface this produces an explosion of life that's drawn fur seals to these islands for thousands of years back on the kaikoura coast the little boy has made some friends the last pups have been born.
And there's a squabble for the last of the blood-rich per Center but mothers come first here this Bountiful stretch of coast is a magnet for breeding species that come to raise their young but not all of them follow the usual parenting strategies this red Bill female is waiting for her.
Partner to return from a feeding trip at sea either eggs at just the right temperature she has to roll them off to ensure the heat inside is evenly distributed it's hot work and with no sweat glands hunting is the only way for her to cool down.
But no matter how hot it is she cannot leave the eggs unprotected or they will be eaten by neighboring girls finally her partner returns and it's another female female red-billed girls outlived the males and therefore outnumber them by.
Nearly 10 percent to overcome this imbalance seven percent of the red build Gull nests have two mothers the females share the parenting duties equally the fur seals are not so accommodating this young pup is trying to find her.
Mother with the other territorial females keep tossing her out of the way it's an unforgiving world where mother fur seals are only concerned for the welfare of their own.
Pups the little boy is now around 10 days old and the biggest test of his young life is about to begin he has been feeding Around the Clock gaining weight rapidly which means his mother's fat reserves have diminished just as fast.
She must now leave him alone for the first time while she goes to Sea to feed fortunately she doesn't have far to go less than 500 meters out from the kaikoura peninsula is the one thousand meter deep kaikoura Canyon here deep ocean currents collide with.
The canyon wall ing the cold nutrient-rich water upwards it's a biodiverse hot spot where Krill and small fish support a dazzling array of marine life this abundance of life that likely attracted seals to the region initially before sealers wipe them out and it is probably the reason they have.
Now come back but seals are not the only Hunters here the rich pickings attract apex predators like this orca back on shore the little boy watches as his mother leaves him for the first time and heads to Sea to feed.
His life depends on how quickly she returns if she takes longer than three or four days he could starve more than one in three newborns do in the meantime the greatest risk to the young pup's life other resident adults and the ocean he can't swim well yet.
The next few days will be the longest of this pup's life oh just off kaikoura life forests and giant calc these graceful submarine Plants provide shelter and trap nutrients.
For a wide variety of animals including Rock Lobster each year New Zealand Rock Lobster migrate almost 500 kilometers over several weeks from deep water to the relative shallows of the kelp forest here they will malt and mate because there's more food and shelter.
Than the open ocean Rock Lobster become aggressive as they prepare to mate evolved a bizarre form of communication to help keep the peace dominant status is expressed through chemical signals in a male's urine and transmitted through the water if a male's antennae pick up signals of.
An opponent's higher status he may just back down and not bother fighting at all of course the kelp forest doesn't come without risks this Lobster won't be passing on any of his jeans this year or any year the octopus ejects the parts that can't be digested.
And devours the rest it is here that the male pup's mother has caught her first meal after giving birth a red Cod she'll need to catch more than just one Cod if she's to feed her rapidly grow she doesn't always have to rely solely.
On her own skills to do this New Zealand fur seals sometimes cooperate with dusty dolphins to catch prey working as a team Dolphins use tail slapping to herd fish into a wall once the fish are trapped the Dolphins take turns charging into the bait ball.
To Devour the fish it is this type of group hunting that fur seals have been known to join in with something the young pups May one day participate in if they make it to adulthood but back on Shore the little boy is more interested in when his milk supply will.
Return than what he may eat when he's older 420 kilometers away on the exposed open Bay Islands the little girl is also alone for the first time in her life her mother has taken advantage of a brief spell of good weather and gone to Sea to feed.
The warmer weather is a treat for the crested penguins that are molting penguins are one of the few bird species that lose all their feathers during this process it takes two to three weeks to grow new clean feathers that will keep them waterproof in these Cool Waters.
During The Malt they can't enter the water at all which means they aren't able to eat this season's pubs are also enjoying the fine weather as they learn to swim in the relative safety of the local Nursery pool the pups hang out in Loosely knit pods that form whenever their mothers go to.
Sea to hunt everything they do is a rehearsal for adult life even trying to catch a fish a young girl can hear the other pups splashing in the pool they are mostly several weeks older than she is but she is Keen to join them.
even if she's not quite sure how to get there a local crested penguin helps lead the way at around nine days old she is right on track to learn to swim X Out the pool.
Seals have very good eyesight and after a quick look around the Brave Young pup takes to the water she seems confident in the water and takes to swimming quickly but if her mother doesn't make it back courage will account for nothing and where her mother has gone that is a.
Possibility she is eight kilometers off the open Bay Islands searching for squid and small mid-water fish that make up the bulk of her diet she is perfectly equipped to hunt in these Waters her front flippers Propel her forward while her rear flippers and flexible.
Spine enable her to twist and turn he Dives her nostrils automatically close her heart rate slows by over 90 percent in this state she can dive deeper than 200 meters and stay there for over 10 minutes deeper and longer than any other fur seal species on the planet.
But she'll need all her swimming skills if she's to make it back to her Pub great white sharks have learned to wait in the waters between the feeding grounds and the breeding grounds in some parts of the world fur seals will gather in groups to get past sharks and then make a Sprint for land seal colonies are probably too small to.
Utilize this type of behavior Behavior but they may use other tactics like corpuscing which is more energy efficient than swimming it may also help the seals get their bearings as they near the shore but as seen in other places even this doesn't always work the girl pup's mother is hunting for.
Fish and Squid off the open Bay Islands while she waits on Shore alone initially she was curious about the world she found herself in and joined in with the older pups playing in the nursery pool foreign but her mother has been away for almost three days now.
She is suffering from lack of milk starting to lose body weight the main exit to the ocean that all open Bay fur seals use is a narrow surge channel on the edge of the nursery pool it's a wild ride the deposits the seals right where they need to be in deep water.
The older pups know how to avoid this channel until they perfected their swimming skills but the little girl has yet to learn this rule in her desperation to find her mum she gets too close to the mouth of the nursery pool.
a rogue wave hits and sucks her out of the pool and into the ocean this is unfamiliar territory for the young female and she starts drifting in the wrong direction away from the island and into Dangerous Waters.
Certainly a familiar figure shoots in from the deep it's one of the adults returning from a hunt the young girl follows the older sealed back to shore 420 kilometers to the Northeast on the kaikoura coast.
The little male is a few weeks older now and reaping the high fat rewards of his mother's numerous fishing trips foreign Waters means the mothers are well nourished so the pups here are nursed longer and grow bigger than fur seals in other.
Parts of New Zealand including the open Bay Islands just offshore a visitor has dropped in a petrol maybe after some dolphin dinner scraps this female Dusky dolphin seems intrigued by this new color.
Until she finds some of her pod playing a game of past the seaweed a favorite game among these intelligent sea levels one piece of seaweed lends itself to all kinds of deft maneuvers the acrobatic Dolphins come dangerously close to the petrol he's taking no.
Chances past the seaweed doesn't just pass the time play in Dusky dolphin Society strengthens bombs within the pod and increases young Dolphins understanding of the world they live in the world the red build gulls live in allows no time whatsoever for play.
One of the two mothers has been busy fishing at Sea and is heading home with a crop full of krill she's about to meet the first chick born in her blended family and not a moment too soon the nesting girl needs a break and the chick is desperate for its first.
Meal of regurgitated fish young boys growing in confidence as well as girth thank you so when his hungry mother goes to Sea to fish he wanders away exploring a new part at the beach.
down the shore he discovers something he's never seen before fresh water stream and a bunch of pups returning to the Colony he doesn't follow them instead his curiosity fueled.
He heads Upstream to where they came from he leaves behind the familiarity of the shoreline where he was born possibly following a scent up the Stream the further Inland he goes.
The more challenging the terrain but the Intrepid Explorer seems undeterred then he makes an extraordinary discovery the young male pup has found the kaikoura nursery pool every breeding season when the females.
Go to Sea more and more pups head Upstream to this freshwater playground sometimes there are 200 pups here it's the perfect setting to learn social skills coordination and the fluid acrobatics of the ocean hunt.
Even a harmless play fight is a rehearsal for adult life if it's at all intimidating to this first time visitor the queue backing up behind him helps him overcome his fear in no time at all he seems to be having the time of his life.
Foreign sets in some of the pups head Downstream to the coast hunger and instinct tell them their mothers will be back from hunting soon but many remain with Newfound confidence the young male decides to stay.
His first night away from home it is morning on the open Bay Islands and A Change Is in the Air the New Zealand fur seal breeding season is winding down a lot of the males have already left and there are just a few stragglers remaining many of the females are pregnant again.
But their embryos have not started to grow yet after the egg is fertilized it waits before it starts to develop this delayed pregnancy means fur seals can time the birth of their pups to the following summer one of the last females to give birth is.
Now ready to mate for her but a dangerous time for her with a 100 kilogram male in Hot Pursuit and she tries to get her pup out of the way this may be her last chance to mate before the males leave.
But at the moment she seems more worried about this year's pup getting crushed eventually the male looks elsewhere his drive to meet greater than his patience the female may have saved her pup this time but there's no hope for this breeding.
Zone casualty it's been a bad year and dead pups litter the landscape here on the open Bay breeding grounds perhaps their mothers were the victims of fisheries bycatch and the pups starved climate-related changes are affecting prey availability and therefore the.
Mother's ability to feed their young or maybe these young pups just didn't learn fast enough when the last storm hit storms are common on the open Bay Islands and the waves that they generate can rip pups from the rocks the young female pup is now almost two.
Months old a nose to stay clear of the waves as a storm approaches the island alone again while her mother is at sea she joins a group of pups heading inland up into the bush penguins are also making the move Inland away from the Violent Waves in the bush the inhabitants hunker down.
Together to wait out the storm laughs while down on the shore a stray male pup who didn't heed the warnings faces the storm alone it is the end of the New Zealand fur seal breeding season.
The young girl pup has survived the worst her exposed home could throw at her and is on her way to becoming a strong and confident member of The Colony the meal pup is also thriving in his little piece of paradise curiosity an adventurous Spirit serving.
Him well in both colonies the last bull seals are returning to the ocean for months of feeding they won't return until the next breeding season until then it's just females rearing their pups.
In peace but it's not good news for all the pups the last storm took more than one victim here on the open Bay Islands oh these are the lucky ones the ones that survived the young girl pup is becoming used to.
Her mother's frequent hunting trips like most of the females her mother is pregnant she needs lots of food to feed the embryo that will start developing in a few weeks time he still has another eight months before she can win this year's pup the water in the search channel has been.
Violent enough to keep the pup from following her mother to see but today she's ready to give it a go the mother on what is her first intentional Journey Into the Wild open ocean over the coming months as her strength and confidence grew she'll explore the.
Water around the island perfecting her swimming skills and learning what's good to eat but it will be a year or more before the young female is ready to dive the deeper ocean and four more years before she will mate and give birth.
Thank you but for the rest of her life the open Bay Islands will be a location full of amazing inhabitants and productive Waters where she will one day raise her own Young on the Bountiful kaikoura Coast the story ends a little differently the two.
Females have another mouth to feed they take turns being on duty while the other feeds at sea the best possible strategy to ensure the future for their offspring when food is plentiful the chicks may be fed as many as five times a day the older chicks have learned to forage alongside their parents in a bug Rich.
Kelp on the shoreline eventually they'll hunt for their own food out at sea the young male has been taking ample advantage of his mother's Rich milk and grown fat he hears his friends playing in a nearby Rock pool and goes to check it out.
it's an easy slide in this is Heaven for a pup playing in a safe enclosure of a rock pool but unlike his female compatriot on the open Bay Islands the young male will probably not make kaikoura his permanent home.
Instead he will become one of the colonies transient males that spends most of his time hunting in other locations around New Zealand only returning to the Colony once a year to fight for the right to breed by the time he is 10 years old he would likely be one of the dominant males defending his own harim of females.
And terrorizing the young pups that will be born into this new and thriving colony in years to come
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