New Zealand fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) pup behaviour and an assessment of novel non-invasive population survey methods.
Thesis DisciplineBiological Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Recent earthquakes in the Kaikoura region have devastated the East coast of New Zealand, causing landslides and sea bed rise which has completely altered the landscape of the Ohau Point seal colony and highlighted the immediate application of this research. The aim of this study was to quantify New Zealand fur seal pup (Arctocephalus forsteri) behaviour and to develop a non-invasive population sampling method, using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and thermal imaging technology. I found that ontogenetic change in behaviour occurs in NZ fur seal pups over the first five months of life. In particular, grooming and mock fighting behaviours decreased overtime, whilst swimming and resting remained constant. Additionally, UAV population survey methods were found to cause minor disturbance, whilst detecting 27% of the pups in the colony, in a fraction of the time required to conduct traditional methods. Thermal imagery further enhanced these results, yielding greater detection than photographic images during the cooler periods of the day (morning and evening). This thesis will discuss the initial and immediate applications of this technology for pinniped surveys. It is rare that an ecological study has immediate application such as this one. The results from this study can provide baseline data for future behavioural analysis, as well as, provides a heightened appreciation for pup ‘play’ habitat. Given the recent earthquakes, the potential is great for immediate application of UAV and thermal imaging for remote sampling of coastal marine species.