Introduction

Auckland appears to be having a rare visit from a leopard seal and the Department of Conservation is warning anyone encountering it to keep well away to ensure they stay safe.

Auckland appears to be having a rare visit from a leopard seal and the Department of Conservation (DOC) is warning anyone encountering it to keep well away to ensure they stay safe.

Leopard seal at Kawakawa Bay, east Auckland.
This leopard seal at Kawakawa Bay,
east Auckland, could be the same one
sighted at Herne Bay in the city centre

A seal believed to be a leopard seal was sighted at Herne Bay in central Auckland this morning (October 26). This follows a confirmed sighting of a leopard seal at Kawakawa Bay, east Auckland, six weeks ago. 

“It’s possible the seal sighted this morning at Herne Bay is the leopard seal seen at Kawakawa Bay last month,” says DOC Auckland Area biodiversity manager, Phil Brown.

“Leopard seals are bigger and more aggressive than New Zealand fur seals and we are warning the public to ensure they stay safe by keeping well away from any seals they see in the Auckland area.”

“Anyone encountering a leopard seal - or any seal - should keep at least 20 metres away and not disturb it. Leopard seals can be aggressive if agitated and while they can appear docile resting on shore, they can lunge powerfully and quickly.”  

"If a leopard seal is basking on the beach or swimming around in the sea and is fine then people should just leave it alone.”

"People should never get between a seal and its access to water.”

"We also advise people to make sure their dogs do not harass seals - fur seals as well as leopard seals - and to keep dogs well away from them,” says Phil Brown.

Leopard seals are identified by their long slim body, comparatively large fore-flippers. The disproportionately large head, massive jaws, impressive teeth and tremendous gape which give them a snake-like appearance.

The leopard seal spotted at Kawakawa Bay and the seal seen at Herne Bay this morning (October 26) were gray.

“It’s rare for a leopard seal to make it as far north as Auckland as they are normally found along the edge of the Antarctic pack ice,” says Phil Brown.

“The leopard seal sighted in Auckland may be a lone juvenile male,” says Phil Brown.

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