They may be playful, they may be cute, but the seal pups at Ohau Waterfall, near Kaikoura, are still wild animals and must be viewed accordingly.
That's the message from the Department of Conservation (DOC) in the build-up to the busy season at the seal pup nursery.
Baby seals generally make their way upstream to the pool at the top of Ohau Stream from mid-May to the end of October. However, DOC ranger Brett Cowan said there are a few pups there already.
Anyone wishing to visit the site must bear a few things in mind, he said.
First, the track is in need of repair after heavy rain. The repairs may not be done for a couple of weeks so people are urged to be cautious, particularly after heavy rain. The part of the track just after the footbridge is prone to flooding and the track is slippery.
That said, visitors are asked to stick to the track, not wander off around the stream and inhibit the seals' passage upstream.
Cowan said the seals must be respected and given space.
While there were signs clearly explaining how to treat the seals, this was largely being ignored, he said.
Cowan had fished six balloons out of the waterfall pool over the past week.
"Please do not take balls, toys or anything else for the seals. They are playful, inquisitive, but please do not try to humanise them.
. . . "The seals are only drinking milk while they are at the waterfall. Once they start eating fish they will be at sea hunting."
The volunteer programme run in past years to protect the seals and educate visitors starts again next month. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer is asked to call the DOC office on 03 319 5714 to register. The first training session is at the DOC office, Ludstone Rd, on May 14, 6pm to 7.30pm.
The plan is to cover between Thursday or Friday and Sunday each week, but if more volunteers come forward the site will be manned on other days too. Volunteers, working in pairs, are likely to cover one shift a fortnight.
- The Marlborough Express