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‘Don’t feed the seal’

The Department of Conservation (DoC) is asking people not to feed a juvenile New Zealand fur seal that has taken up residence in Gisborne waters.

“Fur seals (or kekeno) are carnivores who mainly feed on squid and small fish . . . but they are intelligent marine mammals and will easily adjust to the lazy life of being spoonfed,” DoC marine science adviser Laura Boren says.

The seal has been repeatedly fed by members of the public and has become habituated to human food.

Food such as chips are not a part of their natural diet and could cause numerous health issues on top of habituation, she says.

“We're asking the public to not feed the seal and to remind others not to feed it.”

Several pictures of the friendly seal that has been in and around the port for about a month have been taken and posted on Facebook pages.

Ms Boren says the seal has a hook in the corner of its mouth, suggesting it has got itself caught on a fishing line.

This and feeding it could result in serious health effects, possibly death.

DoC is trying to capture the seal and remove the hook but efforts to do so have been hindered by the people feeding or interfering with the seal. The seal must be on land to be caught and given treatment.

“We're extremely lucky to have the iconic marine mammals on our back doorstep but they are wild animals and we should treat them with the respect they deserve,” DoC biodiversity ranger Jamie Quirk says.

“In order to catch and treat this seal, it needs to be on land and not agitated. We're asking the public to please avoid bothering the seal and to remind others to do the same.”

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE: The Department of Conservation (DoC) is strongly advising people not to feed and to keep their distance from seals including this pup which has been a regular sight in Gisborne waters. 'We're practising social distancing with each other anyway, so keeping 20 metres from this seal should be easy,' said DoC biodiversity officer Jamie Quirk. Picture by Liam Clayton