Sea lion found shot on Stewart Island

A sea lion has been shot and left for dead in a "cowardly act".

The young male sea lion was found on Stewart Island on April 30, and an autopsy and pathology report revealed that it had been shot.

The Department of Conservation's conservation services manager for Stewart Island, Brent Beaven, said the sea lion had been shot twice between the shoulder blades, but had not been killed outright.

"Both shoulder blades were fractured and the wounds were infected, plus he was also pretty thin, so we think he probably survived in pain at least three days before dying," he said.

He said the slaying was a "cowardly act".

Sea lions are classified as endangered and are found only in New Zealand.

They used to breed from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island but now they are mainly on the subantarctic islands, with a few hundred on the mainland.

Beaven said there were about 10,000 left, but the number was declining.

"New Zealand sea lions are known to sometimes be boisterous and appear aggressive, but this is mainly bluff and bluster or curiosity," he said.

"If a few simple rules are followed, they pose no danger to humans. In fact, many tourists, without guns, enjoy interacting with these animals every year in the New Zealand subantarctic islands and on the Otago coast."

Beaven said the department needed the public's help to safeguard vulnerable marine mammal species.

If anyone had information on this incident they should call the police or 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468), he said.

Under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, there are penalties of up to six months' jail or a fine of up to $250,000 for killing or harming marine mammals, plus a fine of up to $10,000 for every marine mammal the offence was committed against.

It is the second time in a year that a sea lion has been shot on Stewart Island.

The Press