Leopard seal makes surprise appearance

Last updated 16:46 17/08/2014
An unusual visitor has made an unexpected appearance on Christchurch's Scarborough Beach.
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SURPRISE APPEARANCE: A leopard seal basked in the sun on Scarborough Beach today.

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An unusual visitor has made an unexpected appearance on Christchurch's Scarborough Beach. 

Nature lovers were surprised by the appearance of a leopard seal on the popular Sumner beach late Saturday morning. 

The seal, believed to be a middle-aged male, had been spotted swimming around Lyttelton Harbour and hanging out in the mudflats near Governors Bay last week.

Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger Tony Woods said the seal decided to set up camp on Scarborough Beach yesterday and was still there on Sunday afternoon. 

"It's in good condition. It's just come to recharge its batteries," he said.

"I think it's potentially quite happy to stay for a while."

DOC staff roped off part of the beach and put up signs warning people to keep their dogs away from the seal.

"They move very quick and they not only have a pretty bad bite on them if they're angered too much, they can kill. They can actually do a lot of damage," Woods said.

Leopard seals were normally found near Antarctica, but young animals often moved throughout the Southern Ocean and were known to visit New Zealand at this time of year. 

Woods said the unexpected visitor had probably become "the most looked-at seal in history".

"You couldn't find a busier place than Scarborough. It's just a nice place for it to lie on the beach in the sun." 

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