Tragic day for NZ seals

31 August 2008

Project Jonah is saddened at a spate of recent events where dogs have attacked and killed seals: fearing for the safety of both.

Under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 it is illegal to kill, catch, injure or harass seals, or any marine mammals: with fines of up to $10,000 imposed. Despite this legislation, up to 24 seal pups and adult seals were mauled by dogs at Te Kohanga (Shipwreck Bay) and Tauroa Point in the last days of August. As a result, shocked locals have been asked to be more vigilant in tying up and registering their dogs. Sadly, massive damage has already been done.

It is vital that dogs are kept under control around seals, particularly during late winter and spring – when New Zealand fur seals come ashore with their weaned, yet still vulnerable, pups.

Kimberly Muncaster, Project Jonah CEO says “Seals and dogs just don’t get on. For the welfare of both animals it’s best to keep them well apart. And that means keeping dogs on leads if seals are around.’’

Both Project Jonah and the Department of Conservation advocate minimum intervention by members of the public, especially where there are young pups present. Exceptions to this are in the case of serious injury, or if seals are in high use public areas, such as roads, or are being harassed. In those cases, people should call the DOC emergency number (0800 361 246) as soon as possible. Otherwise it is best to leave them alone.

Kimberly adds “Seals are much loved but often misunderstood. It’s great that the public are looking out for their welfare, but it’s important that they understand the unusual quirks of these animals. DOC do a great job, but they’re stretched to the max. If we can spread awareness it means seals that really are in trouble can be helped when they’re most in need.’’

What you can do
  • Keep at least 10m away from any seal and exercise caution
  • Ensure dogs are under control and on a lead
  • Don’t move or touch seals, dead or alive, as they can carry disease
  • Keep children well away from resting seals
  • Avoid getting between a cow and her pup

Seals are equipped with large teeth, and can become aggressive and move surprisingly fast over land. Leopard seals in particular are likely to attack instead of retreating to the water.

All seals should be treated with respect. Observe them from a distance.

By giving these animals their space, we can share our coastlines with them and enjoy them for many years to come.

Click here to find out more about the unusual quirks and habits of seals.
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