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


A leopard seal pup born on Dunedin’s St Kilda beach yesterday morning has been euthanised after its mother failed to bond and left for the ocean this morning.

Date:  27 September 2017

Leopard seal mother and pup.
Leopard seal mother and pup
Image: Em Curtin

Born to what is thought to be a first-time mother, the pup would likely have drowned shortly after birth had it not been taken from the water and placed near the mother by a member of the public. It was hoped the mother and pup would bond, however by nightfall there was no sign this had happened, and the pup hadn't been fed.

This morning the mother left the pup, which was very weak and unresponsive. After being assessed by a vet and DOC staff member as being unable to feed even if the mother returned, the decision was made to euthanise it.

DOC Ranger Jim Fyfe said "although it was a sad end for the pup, it was a great example of the whole community doing what they could to give the pup the best chance."

The Dunedin City Council and its contractors helped limit vehicle and public access to the mother and pup, while members of the public and NZ Sea Lion Trust volunteers kept a watchful eye over it and alerted dog-walkers and passers-by to its presence.

"It was great to see so many people interested in this incredibly rare event, and sad for all involved that the outcome couldn't have been better," said Mr Fyfe.

"While we are lucky to have such special visitors to our coastline, people should also be mindful and respectful that leopard seals are large wild animals that should be viewed from at least 20 metres away at all times."

Dr Krista Hupman of NIWA, along with a team of researchers at, is studying leopard seals around New Zealand and flew down from Auckland to offer her support and advice.

"The opportunity to witness this incredibly rare event was too good to miss, as this is only the second time ever, and the first time in 40 years, that a leopard seal has given birth on New Zealand shores," she said.


Dr Krista Hupman
Phone: +64 22 025 6290 

Craig Wilson
Department of Conservation
Phone: +64 27 408 3351

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