Leopard seal Owha injured in Auckland Harbour

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Researchers are keeping a close eye on Owha, the leopard seal that has made Auckland Harbour her home, after she was seen bleeding from her face on Saturday morning.

NIWA Marine Mammal Biologist Dr Krista Hupman says photos of Owha’s injuries taken by members of LeopardSeals.org, a non-for profit organisation set up to conduct research and raise awareness of leopard seals in New Zealand waters, showed blood coming from Owha’s nostrils and smeared on her face.

Owha the resident leopard seal appears to have been shot and sustained a significant injury to her face. [Photo: Alex Grabham, LeopardSeals.org]

“The photos clearly show a puncture wound on her left muzzle with blood seeping from the wound.”

Dr Hupman says the photos were also examined by vets who agreed the wound was likely the result of a gunshot.

Researchers have continued to monitor Owha over the long weekend for any change in her behaviour or condition.

“So far she seems to be doing okay – resting and swimming as usual.”

Dr Hupman says at this stage intervention would not be in Owha’s best interests, however she asks that anyone seeing Owha document the sighting by phoning 0800 LEOPARD (0800 536 7273).

The group is particularly interested in creating a timeline of her movements in the past week.

Owha has been living in Auckland and Northland since 2015 and is frequently seen in the inner Waitemata Harbour. She has a preference for sleeping on pontoons and is often spotted at marinas.

Leopard seals are a native resident species within New Zealand that are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978. Anyone charged under the MMPA with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a seal faces a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment or a fine to a maximum of $250,000

Contact

Dr Krista Hupman
Ph 022 025 6290

Research subject: Marine Mammals