Endangered sea lion shot dead

ENDANGERED: Sea lions have a blunt nose and short whiskers.
ENDANGERED: Sea lions have a blunt nose and short whiskers.

The Department of Conservation is appealing for help from the public after a critically endangered sea lion was shot dead on Stewart Island.

The young female sea lion was shot with a .22 rifle and was found dead at Port Adventure last month by a member of the public.

A DOC investigation into the shooting has so far failed to identify the culprit, and the department is appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

RARE SPECIES: Adult males and females look quite different.
RARE SPECIES: Adult males and females look quite different.

The plea comes days after DOC sought help after the "callous" shooting of two seals near Kaikoura last weekend.

A female seal and an 11-month-old pup were found with gunshot wounds to their heads at the Ohau Point seal colony on Saturday.

DOC's Stewart Island biodiversity programme manager, Brent Beaven, said the sea lion would have suffered for some time before it died.

DOC was ''very concerned'' about the shooting, he said.

The New Zealand sea lion is critically endangered and is one of the rarest sea lion species in the world, with about 10,000 left and numbers declining.

While they used to breed throughout New Zealand, the main locations they are known to breed now are Stewart Island, the Catlins and Otago.

''New Zealand sea lions are known to sometimes be boisterous and appear aggressive, especially when defending their young, but if a few simple rules are followed they pose no risk to humans,'' Beaven said.

''As the weekend seal shootings in Kaikoura have highlighted, we need the public to help us safeguard vulnerable marine mammal species.''

He said DOC teams had spoken to the party that reported the incident and boat operators in the area at the time, but had no leads over the shooting.

There was no indication the Kaikoura and Stewart Island incidents were linked, ''apart from the fact they both involve senseless killings''.

''We take all deliberate attacks on marine mammals seriously and wherever possible prosecute anyone found responsible,'' he said.

Offenders are liable to up to six months' jail or a fine of up to $250,000 for harming the animals under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

Anyone with any information on the Stewart Island shooting is asked to contact the police or phone DOC on 0800 362 468.

The Press