Accused didn't mean to harm seal - PR firm

PALOMA MIGONE
Last updated 18:34 27/06/2011
Baby seal
BEATEN: This injured baby seal was found bleeding and unconscious in Henderson Creek.

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The two men accused of bashing a fur seal that later died have hired a public relations company to apologise for injuring the animal.

Tomoare Angoika and Matthew Botica were charged with violating the Marine Mammals Protection Act and last week pleaded not guilty in the Waitakere District Court.

The men have since paid a PR firm to voice their side of the story after defence lawyer Steve Bonnar said his clients were "concerned" about how the case had been reported.

In a statement issued by The PR Department Auckland today, the men said they were simply trying to release the female seal pup from their net.

"It was not our intention to harm the seal at all. We were trying to stop the seal from drowning. We do not condone cruelty to animals and it's distressing to think anyone would harm a seal with malice."

The men were on a blow-up dingy with no knife on board to cut the mammal free, so they instead rowed to the mud flats, the statement said.

"As the seal struggled, it became an emergency situation. We couldn't get close to it without it trying to bite us and it kept trying to get back to the water.

"Our only remaining choice was to try to stun the seal so we could untangle it from the fishing net and set it free."

A Department of Conservation spokesman today said he was unable to comment on the men's statement because the case was before the court.

At the time, the department said the seal was bashed by two men with an oar.

The seal was cared for at Auckland Zoo until it was euthanised when it was determined it would not recover.

Bonnar, outside the court last week, said his clients were attempting to extract the seal from the net.

"This wasn't a case of cruelty per se."

They were "very distressed and upset" to hear that the pup had been injured and subsequently euthanised.

"Their intent was not to injure or kill the seal.''

The case would now turn on how they went about freeing the seal, he said.

The men were remanded at large to reappear on September 26.

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