Introduction

A 20 year old Southland man was sentenced in the Invercargill District Court today to four months jail for his role in an attack on a leopard seal. McKenzie was one of three men involved in the attack in Te Waewae Bay, Southland in October 2009.

Date:  12 November 2010

A 20 year old Southland man was sentenced in the Invercargill District Court today to four months jail for his role in an attack on a leopard seal.

Harley McKenzie and Michael Matthews (right) teasing the leopard seal they attacked along with Phillip Horrell (not pictured).
Harley McKenzie and Michael Matthews
(right) teasing the leopard seal they
attacked

McKenzie was one of three men involved in the attack in Te Waewae Bay, Southland in October 2009 which included throwing fist sized stones at the leopard seal and dragging it around the beach by its tail.

The attack was videoed by the group and photographs of the assailants posing with the Leopard Seal were uploaded to Facebook under the title “Gud Times”.

McKenzie has a history of violence and has a previous conviction for animal cruelty. During sentencing, Judge Kevin Phillips described the attack as “abhorrent” and said video footage showed the incident in “graphic colour.”

“This court is here to protect the defenceless and that includes defenceless animals,” he said. “This was an abhorrent act which should be the subject of strong condemnation.”

McKenzie is understood to be the first person sentenced to a term of imprisonment under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

Department of Conservation (DOC) Murihiku Area Manager, Dave Taylor said, “The court has sent a strong message to those who would commit this kind of atrocious act against New Zealand’s precious wildlife. It’s often difficult to identify offenders involved in this kind of act so it’s satisfying when those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”

“Leopard seals are one of the marvels of the Antarctic environment and they don’t visit the New Zealand mainland very often. It’s really special to be able to see them,” said DOC Compliance Officer, Kelwyn Osborn. “The majority of the public appreciate what an amazing opportunity it is to see one first hand and treat these powerful mammals with respect,” he said. “It’s just appalling to see some people abuse them this way.”

It is an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act to injure, harass or disturb a marine mammal.

The Department of Conservation encourages the public to report sightings of unusual marine mammals and urges the public to report immediately any harassment or disturbance of marine mammals to the 0800 DOC HOTLINE (0800 362468).

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Additional information

Two individuals (Phillip Ray Horrell and Michael William Matthews) have already been sentenced to fines of $5,000 & $7,000 for their part in the attack. All three pleaded guilty.

The Department of Conservation administers the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. The maximum penalty for this offence under the Act is a term of imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, or to a fine not exceeding $250,000.
Previous prosecutions under the Act have only resulted in fines and community work.

  • Andrew Hore, Mathew O’Connell, Hamish Wilson were sentenced on 27 July 2005 in Dunedin for shooting at and killing one NZ fur seal. Hore was fined $2,500. Court Costs $130. Solicitors Costs $250. Surrender Firearms to DOC. O’Connell and Wilson $1,000 donation to DOC (Hore having already donated $500 to Mountain Safety Council and surrendered gun licence for 2 yrs).
  • Hayden John Ingram was sentenced on 19/7/2010 for killing a seal without authority, possessing a paintball gun and driving with sustained loss of traction near the Point Keen seal colony on June 18. Judge Stephen Erber sentenced him to 200 hours' community work for killing the seal and possessing the paintball gun, and fined him $500, disqualified him from driving for six months and ordered he pay $250 reparation to the Kaikoura District Council, for sustained loss of traction. (Source: The Marlborough Express).

Video and photographic evidence were seized from one of the assailant’s computers during the investigation.

All marine mammals on shore require respect and the public should remain at least 20m away. Dogs should be under control at all times around marine mammals.

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