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Public Asked to Leave Sea Snakes Alone

20 January 2000


Public Asked to Leave Sea Snakes Alone


The Department of Conservation is warning members of the public to leave any sea snakes they might find washed up on the region's beaches alone, following a recent discovery of one in the Far North.

They should contact their nearest DOC office with the information instead.

Whangarei-based reptile specialist Richard Parrish said the reptiles are not commonly found in New Zealand waters but do sometimes get washed up on beaches both dead and alive. In Northland most are found on the West Coast.

"We are keen to hear about any sightings of the reptiles but also warn people to leave them alone if they are found either dead or alive as they are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953 as well as being dangerous," Mr Parrish said.

The two types of sea snakes sometimes found in New Zealand waters are the yellow bellied sea snake and the banded sea snake. The reptiles are most commonly found in late summer/autumn when sea temperatures are generally highest.

"These reptiles get carried south from the subtropics on currents and when they hit the colder water, their systems get sluggish and they can have difficulty digesting food making them weak causing them to get washed ashore," Mr Parrish said.

"They are able to be rehabilitated and returned to the wild," he added.

Mr Parrish said any animal which finds its way to New Zealand "under its own steam" is protected under the Wildlife Act once it reaches our territorial waters and people are therefore not allowed to kill them if they are found alive.

He said the reptiles were not aggressive and had a small mouth but their highly toxic venom makes them potentially very dangerous.

In this latest report of a sea snake a member of the public allegedly found the reptile alive Parrish and killed it on the beach.

Mr Parrish said DOC wanted to make it clear that this sort of action was not allowed and was a punishable offence.

For more information please contact Richard Parrish on (09) 430 2133

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