Leopard seal on the beach at Lyall Bay, 20 August 2010
Image: Brent Tandy | DOC

Introduction

DOC is appealing for information about a dead leopard seal, which was decapitated over the weekend at Monkey Island in Southland.

Date:  21 December 2021

DOC was first alerted to the dead leopard seal last week and, after communicating with local Oraka Aparima rūnaka, it was decided to allow the animal to naturally decompose.

However, the leopard seal’s body was decapitated over the weekend, to the horror of both groups. “This act is both incredibly disrespectful, and illegal under the Marine Mammals Protection Act”, says DOC Senior Biodiversity Ranger Ros Cole, “as it is an offence to take any part of a marine mammal that has not naturally separated.”

Leopard seals have a distinctive large head, with ferocious teeth. Teamed with their slim bodies, from afar they can look like a large snake. They normally dwell in the Antarctic but visit New Zealand’s shores sometimes in autumn-winter. It is not known why the seal may have come ashore in December.

DOC is calling for anyone with information to call the hotline: 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) and ask for the Invercargill team.

Background information

Information about leopard seals.

It is an offence to take any part of a marine mammal that has not naturally separated – extracts from the Act below.

Restrictions on holding or taking marine mammals

(1) Notwithstanding anything in any other enactment, but subject to this Act, no person shall—

(a) hold a marine mammal in captivity; or

(b) take any marine mammal, whether alive or dead, in or from its natural habitat or in or from any other place – without first obtaining a permit to do so from the Minister or from any person or persons authorised in that behalf by the Minister.

And:

(5) A permit shall not be required –

(a) by any person who finds or collects bones, teeth, ivory, or ambergris that have already separated naturally from a marine mammal if that person, as soon as practicable, notifies the Director-General or an officer of the find, and gives details of the time, place, and circumstances under which the find was made:

Penalties

Every person who commits an offence against this Act for which no penalty is provided otherwise than in this section is liable, on conviction before a District Court Judge, to a fine not exceeding—

(a) in the case of an offence against subsection (2) or section 17,—

(i) in the case of an individual, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or a fine not exceeding $100,000, or both:

(ii) in the case of a body corporate, a fine not exceeding $200,000:

(iii) in any case, where the offence is a continuing one, a further fine not exceeding $10,000 for every day on which the offence continues; and

(b) in any other case, $10,000.

Contact

For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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