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Leopard a rare visitor

A JUVENILE leopard seal seen at various Wainui Beach locations has been around for about two weeks, says Department of Conservation ranger Jamie Quirk.

Leopard seals are rare visitors to New Zealand shores. The Gisborne visitor might look slug-like and unwell but it is more likely to be exhausted, having swum all the way here from Antarctica, says Mr Quirk. The seal is best left alone.

“With animals like these, unless it is injured, we have a non-intervention policy in which we let nature take its course.

“Be mindful it is a wild animal. It is unpredictable. While it looks slug-like it can move very quickly. Leopard seals are ambush predators. When they catch a penguin in the wild, they thrash it around to de-glove it then eat it.

“If someone got close enough, and got bitten, the seal will cause extensive injury. People need to treat these animals with respect.”

Mr Quirk was at the beach where the seal was resting yesterday when he saw a man walking his dog.

“At about 50 metres away he put his dog on a leash and kept it under control. That is the sort of thing we want people to be doing.”

A juvenile leopard seal resting on Wainui Beach might look unwell but it is more likely to be recovering from its long journey from Antarctica, says DoC ranger Jamie Quirk. The leopard seal is a wild animal and should be left alone. It is the second largest of the seal species in the Antarctic, second only to the orca, or killer whale, among Antarctica’s top predators. It is considered the most aggressive of the seal family. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell