A New Zealand fur seal (kekeno) has been found dead on Taipa Beach.
The Department of Conservation received a call on Tuesday from a member of the public that there was a dead seal on the beach. The seal had died recently and its head had been removed.
The Department does not know whether the seal was dead when the head was removed or died as the result of its injuries.
Department of Conservation Partnerships Manager, Carolyn Smith says: “New Zealand fur seal are absolutely protected under the Wildlife Act (1953). Anybody injuring or killing seals may face imprisonment for up to two years or a fine up to $100,000.”
Tina-Lee Yates of Ngati Tara hapu, Parapara Marae, Taipa says, “From an iwi perspective we do not condone any cruelty to seals. These animals are absolutely protected. This is the time of year when young seals are being weaned by their mothers, as a result they turn up on beaches around this area. If anyone has information about this incident or considers any seal to be in danger, please contact the Department of Conservation on 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).”
DOC Services Ranger, Elke Reufels says, “Unless kekeno are being harassed by dogs or people, entangled in marine debris, or severely injured, the best policy is to leave them be.”
“If kekeno feel threatened, they can become aggressive. Please keep a respectful 20 metres away and be careful not to come between them and the sea or between an adult and its pup. Please keep dogs under control and don’t touch kekeno as they do have a nasty bite,” advises Ms Reufels.
“Mournful weeping eyes, regurgitating food, sneezing and coughing, and flapping a flipper to cool off are all completely normal seal behaviours. Kekeno are amazingly resilient, they can recover quickly from quite serious injuries,” Ms Reufels explains.
If anyone has information about the seal or events leading to its death, call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). All calls will be received in confidence.
In the past seals were valued as a food source and for their attractive pelts; in the 1800s, they were very nearly hunted to extinction. Sealing was finally banned in 1894 when the New Zealand Government gave kekeno full protection. Since then their numbers have been rising and they are gradually re-colonising New Zealand’s coastline.
Kekeno spend much of their time on land basking in the sun on rocks. They may appear cumbersome on land, but can climb banks and rocky cliffs, so it is not uncommon for them to be found in odd locations. They can also travel very quickly across the ground, especially if they feel threatened.