Look out for leopard seals

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A NIWA scientist is asking beachgoers to look out for leopard seals over summer.

Leopard seal at Owhiro Bay. [Photo: Dave Allen, NIWA]

Marine mammal biologist Dr Krista Hupman is asking anyone who sees a leopard seal to report it as soon as possible by calling the free hotline 0800 LEOPARD (0800 536 7273) or by posting on the Leopard Seal Sightings NZ Facebook page.

Dr Hupman says photographs of the animals are also crucial. “The way we identify and track individuals movements over time is by photographing their spot patterns from as many angles of their body as possible.

"Their spots are like a fingerprint – each seals patterning is unique."

“If you can take a photograph from a safe distance of at least 20m away, this enables us to identify the individual and track its movements over time. We feel like this is an opportunity for the New Zealand community to contribute to important science on this species whose numbers may be on the rise around New Zealand.”

Hamish McCormick photographing the right-hand side of a leopard seal at Owhiro Bay, at a safe viewing distance (20m +). [Photo: Dave Allen]

Research subject: Marine Mammals