New Zealand fur seal
Image: Sabine Bernert | ©

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


We are reminding the public to leave seals/kekeno alone to rest at this time of year and not be alarmed if they seem vulnerable or unwell.

Date:  04 October 2017

"This is seal pup season," says DOC Christchurch Biodiversity Ranger, Jenna Thoms. "We need to let nature take its course, these seals need rest not rescuing."

More seals are coming ashore as New Zealand fur seal pups are weaned from their mothers from August to November. The seals may look distressed and scrawny, sneeze, cough and have weepy eyes, but this is natural for them and they do not need any human intervention. Most will return to the water and swim away when they are rested and ready to go.

"Not all of them make it, which is sad but this is part of the natural world we live in. Although it can be tempting to help, human interaction is detrimental to their development," says Ms Thoms.

Ranger Jenna Thoms examining a young seal most likely killed by a dog on Sumner beach

"It is also very important to keep dogs under control and be mindful that seals are sharing the beach with us and may be present at any time. We have had at least two seal pup deaths in the past year from dog attacks on popular beaches in Christchurch."

Across the country, 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 a public road. In that case, people can call the 24-hour hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

While seals may look harmless and helpless they are wild animals and will defend themselves if they feel threatened. If you encounter a seal on or near a beach please 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.

"In Christchurch city and surrounding areas, we are lucky to be able to spot these precious taonga as they embark out on their own into adulthood," says Ms Thoms.

"DOC's Mahaanui Office would be happy to work with local communities, in both Sumner and Brighton, to help protect young seals on their beaches. We're keen to hear from interested groups."

So far this season, DOC has already had calls about seals on beaches, in the red zone and up the Heathcote/Ōpāwaho and Avon River/Ōtākaro. There have also been reports of leopard seals in Birdlings Flat, South New Brighton, Motunau Beach and Duvauchelle.

There are over 8000 seals living in and around Banks Peninsula. Seals are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.


For media enquiries contact:


DOC Mahaanui/Sockburn Office
Phone: +64 3 341 9100

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