Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


There have been two unusual and rare visitors to East Coast beaches in the past week. A leopard seal at Tokomaru Bay and a female elephant seal at Wainui beach.

Date:  17 October 2017

East Coast Operations Manager, John Lucas says it was great to have two incredible marine creatures on our back doorstep for the start of Conservation Week. 

“While both seals appeared to be lethargic they can move very quickly when necessary. These are wild animals and should be treated with great respect. Stay 20 metres away and ensure all dogs are under control. Children also need to be well supervised around these animals,” says Mr Lucas.

Leopard seal.
Leopard seal at Tokomaru Bay
Image: Lisa Ewart

Elephant seal.
Elephant seal at Wainui beach
Image: Jamie Quirk | DOC

Elephant seals breed in the subantarctic islands while leopard seals breed in Antarctica.

Gisborne’s most famous elephant seal was Homer who was resident for six weeks in 2000. 

DOC has a hands off policy with seals and will only intervene if a seal is obviously severely injured, is entangled in marine debris or is in a dangerous place such as on or near a public road. In that case, people could call the 24 hour DOC HOTLINE (0800 362 468). 

If you encounter a seal on or near a beach leave it to rest.

  • Always keep dogs on a leash, under control and away from seals.
  • Ensure you keep small children at a safe distance and under your control when watching seals.
  • Avoid getting closer than 20 metres.
  • Do not get between the seal and the sea.
  • Do not touch or feed the seal.


Jamie Quirk, Ranger Biodiversity, Gisborne
Phone: +64 6 869 0460
Mobile: +64 27 432 4920

Back to top