More leopard seals than usual have been visiting Napier lately, prompting a message from the Department of Conservation (DOC) to leave them alone to rest, but tell DOC where they are so their health can be checked, and we can learn more about them.
Hawke’s Bay Area biodiversity assets programme manager Bryan Welch said five leopard seals had been reported in Napier in the past two months, usually at boat ramps which provide suitable haul-out sites for them when in need of rest.
While it was not unusual for the seals to come ashore, there have been more frequent visits this year, and they had arrived later than in previous years, he said.
Leopard seal rests up in Napier
“We usually get a couple visiting every couple of years. Some of those recently reported could be return visitors, and the fact that they turned up after particularly rough sea conditions could mean they’re just coming in to rest.”
Adult leopard seals are normally found along the edge of the Antarctic pack ice but in winter, young animals move throughout the southern ocean visiting New Zealand.
"After such a long journey, what they’re mostly in need of is a good rest!
If you see a leopard seal ashore please leave it undisturbed and note the location and any distinguishing features such as tags or scars. You can pass this information on to the Department of Conservation office in Napier.”
Leopard seals are very large animals which can easily crush a person simply by rolling over. They can move surprisingly quickly on land.
“Don’t be fooled by their small teeth. They’re extremely sharp, capable of penetrating another seal's skin and inflicting a serious wound to humans,” Mr Welch said.
All seals harbour a variety of parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungi, some of which can be transferred to humans.
The following rules for observing seals are designed to protect both the seal and the observers:
- Observe the seal quietly
- Always keep dogs and small children well away from seals
- Avoid getting nearer than 20 metres to the seal
- Do not touch the seal under any circumstances
- Do not get between the seal and its access to water
- Do not feed the seal (leopard seals will only eat live, moving fish which they catch themselves)
“By all means enjoy the seals but please observe the guidelines to ensure the animal's and your own safety,” Mr Welch said. ENDS