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Seal torment prompts DOC plea to let them be

29 October 2009

Seal torment prompts DOC plea to let them be

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“Leave seals alone” is the plea from a Wairarapa Department of Conservation officer who, responding to a Labour weekend call-out to a sick seal at Riversdale, found it being prodded with sticks by children, and terrorised by motorcycles and dogs.

“The public behaviour was no doubt causing the already sick seal distress,” community relations programme manager Amanda Cosgrove said.

“If you see a seal relaxing please give it some space and don’t get closer than 20 metres. If it looks distressed or unwell call the DOC hotline (0800 DOC HOTline) with details about its condition.”

In this case the seal had to be put down and was buried with the help from the team at the Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club led by Michael Taylor.

Seals are currently returning to our shores to breed and to rest after their long swims, where they dive to depths of more than 100 metres to feed. And, after being hunted almost to extinction in the 20th century, the New Zealand fur seal is slowly making a comeback, spreading out across Wairarapa’s east coast in slowly increasing numbers

DOC biodiversity programme manager Bruce Vander Lee said while seal numbers remained steady near the Palliser Lighthouse, due to the limited amount of space there, they had increased further north towards Honeycomb Rock and beyond.

“This means that their haul-out areas (where they spend their time on land) will increase and people will see them in different places.”

“While this increase in numbers is great for conserving these native species, and to witness, it’s a timely reminder to watch behaviour around seals. They need space to relax and swim.”

Other things to consider around seals are:

* Observe the seals quietly
* Always keep dogs and small children away from seals
* Avoid getting nearer than 20 metres to seals
* Do not attempt touch the seals under any circumstances
* Do not feed the seals

More details about how you can help can be found on the DOC website: http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/marine-mammals/seals/nz-fur-seal/you-can-help/


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