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Seal shot at Cape Palliser

7 November 2007

Seal shot at Cape Palliser

The shooting of a seal on Wairarapa’s south coast has prompted a reminder from the Department of Conservation that marine mammals are protected and people caught harming them can be prosecuted.

Wairarapa Area manager Chris Lester said the decomposing carcases of three New Zealand fur seals, or kekeno, were found in September at Cape Palliser, the only fur seal colony in the North Island where breeding is well-established. While two of the seals may have died of natural causes, one had a small hole in the side of its head, resembling a bullet wound. The head was sent to Massey University for a post-mortem examination, and the results have confirmed the department’s suspicions.

“The pathology report confirms that the seal was shot and had bullet fragments lodged in its skull,” Mr Lester said.

“We are disappointed to think that people would harm these protected creatures, which are valued by most New Zealanders. They are just starting to recover and have only recently re-established breeding colonies in the North Island.”

Police were notified when it was first suspected the seal had been shot. But without evidence the department was unable to pursue legal action, Mr Lester said.

Evidence from witnesses has led to prosecutions in recent years for killing and harming seals. Three Otago men were fined $2500 each for shooting a seal on the Otago coast in June 2005. And a Wellington man was fined $650 for throwing stones at seals at Red Rocks on Wellington’s south coast in March 2006.

“We urge the public to notify us if they see anyone harming or harassing seals or other marine wildlife, which are fully protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. “But the main message to the public is just to leave the seals alone to relax in peace”

DoC and local iwi plan to develop interpretative signage for Cape Palliser about the natural, historic and cultural features of the area, including guidelines for safe behaviour around the seal colony. “ We welcome contributions to this work from all sectors of the community.” said Mr Lester.

Information about New Zealand fur seals can found on the DOC website: www.doc.govt.nz>conservation>native animals>marine mammals>seals

Information about Cape Palliser can be found on the DOC website:
www.doc.govt.nz>places to visit>wellington>wairarapa>aorangi forest park>features

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