Date: 04 July 2016
On Saturday 2 July DOC staff were alerted to a young seal pup being driven at high speeds on a quad bike on Hokitika Beach.
A witness described the driver of the quad bike as a dark haired average to tall male in his late teens or early twenties. He was reportedly driving up and down the length of Hokitika beach on a red quad bike, speeding and doing wheelies.
Ian McClure, Hokitika Operations Manager for DOC, said that the seal pup was dumped on the beach by the driver of the quad bike, and was stressed, hypothermic and in a bad state. “With no mother in sight, and the pup unweaned, it was highly unlikely to survive on its own, so the sad decision was made to euthanise the pup”.
“Most residents in Hokitika love the natural environment and wildlife, and it is disturbing and very sad that someone would do this to an animal.”
The plight of the seal pup was reported to DOC by tourists who witnessed the incident.
This is an offence punishable under the Marine Mammals Act and carries a penalty of up to $250,000 and/or two years in jail.
DOC are conducting an investigation into the incident and would welcome any information about the case.
Seals are easily disturbed by human presence. People can disturb seals and interfere with seal behaviour that is critical to their survival, eg separating females from pups or cutting into their resting time. For the protection of the seals, DOC actively promotes a safe approach distance (20 m) and appropriate behaviour when observing New Zealand fur seals.
The New Zealand fur seal was nearly hunted to extinction in the early 1800s. Seals were given full protection by the New Zealand government in 1978 under the Marine Mammals Protection Act. The number of seals today is only a small percentage (10-15%) of the numbers that used to live around New Zealand in the early 1800s.
Seals are a natural part of our coastal environment. Seals are a top predator and therefore play an important role in ecosystem dynamics and in redistributing nutrients from offshore to onshore marine communities.
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