Leopard seal makes Waitemata Harbour its home

A leopard seal has swapped the icy waters of the Antarctic for the Waitemata Harbour.
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A leopard seal has swapped the icy waters of the Antarctic for the Waitemata Harbour.

A leopard seal is making its presence well-known in the Waitemata Harbour, making Westhaven Marina her home and becoming somewhat of a nuisance.

The National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (Niwa) Auckland's marine biosecurity team had to called off the dive for the Ministry of Primary Industries this week as a precaution.

Seals are known to be aggressive to humans.

The leopard seal has made itself at home at Westhaven Marina for the past few months.
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The leopard seal has made itself at home at Westhaven Marina for the past few months.

Niwa marine ecology technician Andrew Miller says they will let the seal move on before attempting to do the dive again.

"We decided to not as a precautionary measure as they've been known to be aggressive and they're quite big beasts with sharp teeth."

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In 2003 a snorkelling biologist was killed by one, but that is the only death attributed to the mammals.

Leopard seals are big animals and normally found along the edge of the Antarctic. Female seals usually weigh around 300 kilograms.

They are the second largest species of seal in the Antarctic, after the southern elephant seal.

Miller says the seals are known to occasionally swap the icy temperatures of the Antarctic and come up to the warmer waters of New Zealand.

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However, it's uncommon for a seal to stay for this length of time, he says.

The female seal has been quite happy swimming through the whole of the Waitemata Harbour and has been up to St Heliers and even up as far as Bream Bay.

Miller says the Department of Conservation have been monitoring the seal closely and ask members of the public to take a picture and send in to monitor her location. 

"We're not sure whether or not it was sick when it arrived and just stayed on, but DOC says it seems happy."

HOW TO APPROACH SEALS

• Stay at least 20m away.
• Don't disturb seals by making loud noises or throwing things.
• Keep dogs and children away.
• Don't feed them.
• Never attempt to touch a seal.

 - Stuff

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