DOC condemns wildlife attacks in the Catlins
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionThe Department of Conservation (DOC) is concerned about several attacks on wildlife in the Catlins last weekend, resulting in serious injuries to sea lions and yellow-eyed penguins.
Date: 16 November 2010
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is concerned about several attacks on wildlife in the Catlins last weekend, resulting in serious injuries to sea lions and yellow-eyed penguins.
On Friday, a sea lion was found with a Hawaiian sling diving spear embedded in its chest. The animal was spotted by tourists on Surat Bay beach. They contacted the DOC ranger in Owaka, Cheryl Pullar, on Saturday, but by then the animal had disappeared. It could not be found during a search by Ms Pullar yesterday.
Sea lion found with a diving spear
embedded in its chest
“From pictures sent by the tourists who found the sea lion, it appears the spear was not deeply embedded and we hope it will dislodge by itself. If the animal is found, we will try to extract the spear and, if necessary, the animal will be netted and sedated,” Ms Pullar said.
Also on Friday, members of the public reported a sea lion with large cuts on the beach between Kaka Point and the Nuggets. The cuts did not appear to be inflicted naturally.
On Saturday, a nesting yellow-eyed penguin was mauled by two dogs at Jacks Bay. The injuries caused to this penguin were so serious that it subsequently died. It was sitting on a nest with two chicks, so they are likely to die as well. Prior to the attack, the dog owners were warned by locals that penguins were nesting and to keep their dogs away. There was also a sign on the beach warning of nesting penguins.
A sea lion with unnatural abrasions was
found on the beach between Kaka Point and
Then DOC received a report on Saturday that a Rottweiler belonging to some youths had harassed yellow-eyed penguins on the beach at Roaring Bay.
DOC Coastal Otago area manager Robin Thomas condemned the irresponsible behaviour and thoughtless acts of cruelty by the people and dogs who have killed, injured and harassed protected and endangered wildlife. “These actions are not only totally illegal and seriously impact the species but, in respect of the sea lion incidents, are also potentially very dangerous.”
Commenting on the speared sea lion, Mr Thomas said: “While these animals are naturally inquisitive, and especially so when they encounter divers, they usually watch the activity for a while then leave. However, aggressive actions of this nature could cause the animal to lash out in response to the pain of being speared or develop a negative relationship with humans - neither would be a good outcome for either the sea lion or human”.
Yellow-eyed penguin which received serious
injuries and later died after it was attacked
by dogs at Jacks Bay
He advised anyone who comes across a sea lion while diving to not make an aggressive move towards them, not make eye contact and they should move quietly away. “Give sea lions space,” Mr Thomas said.
“A diver who reacts to sea lions by firing or poking a spear or sling at them is putting themselves in danger as well committing an offence. Also, sea lions may start to take a more aggressive approach to divers if they expect a fight or a risk of injuring themselves.”
People who encounter a sea lion on the beach should stay calm and avoid engaging with them. They should also stay well away from nesting penguins and keep dogs on a leash when walking on beaches with penguins.
“We are exceptionally lucky to have such a rich diversity of wildlife on our doorstep – we just need to learn to live a little more comfortably with them,” Mr Thomas said.
These incidents follow last week’s sentencing of a man for an attack on a leopard seal in Te Waewae Bay last year.
DOC encourages the public to report sightings of injured marine mammals and to immediately report any harassment or disturbance of them to the DOC hotline (0800 362 468).