Doc turns to public to help find seal killer

Published date11 August 2022
Publication titleSouthland Express
The Department of Conservation (Doc) is appealing for the public’s help after the dead seal was found near Sandy Point, Otatara, on July 23

Initial investigations revealed the animal appeared to have been shot, most likely with a small-calibre rifle.

Evidence on site also suggests a vehicle had been circling around the animal, which may have caused it further distress.

‘‘After collecting information and communicating with the local Waihopai runaka, it has been decided to allow the animal to decompose naturally,’’ Doc senior biodiversity ranger Rosalind Cole said.

‘‘Leopard seals are considered a taonga species to Ngai Tahu. Local iwi have expressed how sad and tragic it is that a member of the public would carry out such an act on a defenceless marine mammal. We completely agree.’’

University of Otago researcher Giverny Forbes said it was not uncommon to see leopard seals on the Southland coastlines around this time of year, and the mouth of the Oreti River was not an unusual location for one to visit.

The last confirmed case of someone killing a seal was in 2019, and violence against the animals was often due to misplaced fear, she said.

‘‘There’s quite a big culture of misunderstanding of leopard seals. In media and stuff they’re often described as really dangerous and really aggressive. And, of course, they are large predators so they are capable of hurting people, but in general, if you leave them alone, they’re not going to do anything to you.

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