TOURISM ON NEW ZEALAND
A control site, Whakamoa, on the Banks Peninsula, which receives no tourist traffic, was used to compare responses of seals to various approach types. Behaviour was observed using focal animal and instantaneous scan sampling (Altmann, 1974), while attributes of tourist approaches were tested experimentally via controlled approaches. Approaches were broken into land, kayak and boat approaches, and the following factors were manipulated: distance, noise, frequency of approach, and size of group approaching. In the second field season (2000-2001), Focal Animal data were collected on 124 mother/pup pairs. Controlled Approaches by land, kayak, and boat were carried out during both seasons and data were collected on 3525 seals. Frequency approach data were collected by land (n=13 seals), and by kayak (n=55 seals) in the first field season. Also in the first field season, the impact of group size was tested on 97 seals by land. Seals’ responses to tourist approaches were recorded during both seasons, on land and at sea in both boats and kayaks (n=3699 seals approached). Data were collected on 327 seals approached by a commercial guided walk in the second field season. A total of 33 commercial swimwith- seal programmes were observed during the second season.
The results from this study indicate that fur seals are changing their behaviour in response to tourist activities. Focal Animal data collected on all gender/age groups suggests that there are significant differences in the behavioural repertoire of seals based on site and gender/age differences. Focal Animal data collected on mother/pup pairs suggests that time spent ‘Nuzzling’ was significantly less at Tonga Island (p<0.019) although no significant differences were observed in mother/pup association time between sites. Instantaneous scans showed significant changes in seals’ behaviours in response to tourist disturbance. The results from the controlled approach aspect indicate that fur seals respond more strongly to. land-based approaches than sea-based approaches (p<O.OOl). Response to different approaches also vatied by site with more avoidance responses displayed at the control site (p<0.005). There was no significant correlation between group size and fur seal response or the frequency of approach and seal response.
The data presented here have shown that seal responses vary based on a large number of factors, and that seals may habituate over time in areas of high tourist activity. This study indicates that current management guidelines are not preventing negative impacts in tourist/seal interactions. In Chapter 5, strategies are recommended to lessen the overall impact of eco-tourism activities on fur seals including (See Chapter 4 for calculation) new minimum approach distances (land approaches – 30 m at non breeding sites, prohibited at breeding sites; kayak approaches 20 m at breeding sites; boat approaches – 30 mat all locations).