Seals clubbed to death

2010-12-06 08:17
New Zealand Department of Conservation officer Phil Bradfield stands next to dead seals near Kaikoura on New Zealand's South Island. (AP/New Zealand Department of Conservation)

New Zealand Department of Conservation officer Phil Bradfield stands next to dead seals near Kaikoura on New Zealand's South Island. (AP/New Zealand Department of Conservation)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Wellington - Attackers clubbed 23 fur seals to death, including newborn pups, at a New Zealand breeding colony re-established two decades ago after the species was nearly wiped out by hunting.

Some of the eight bludgeoned pups were just days old, Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said. She appealed for assistance from the public to help track down the attackers.

"To go around and club 23 seals to death over a number of days is very deliberate and you have to question the state of mind of someone who can carry out such a cruel and abhorrent attack," Wilkinson said in a statement.

The Ohau Point seal colony on northern South Island is a popular tourism spot north of the town of Kaikoura, which is an international whale-watching centre.

The Department of Conservation said the attacks took place over as long as two weeks. The location may have delayed the discovery.

Drastic drop

The colony stretches about 2km along the coast and is at the bottom of a steep, 30m cliff with no easy access, department spokesperson Rory Newsam said.

Numbering about two million before the arrival of settlers in New Zealand, fur seals were clubbed to death by hunters in the 1800s for their meat and pelts, but the hunts ended because of the drastic drop in their numbers that raised fears the seals could be wiped out. The midsize seals are also found in Australia and some Antarctic islands.

The Oahu Point colony in New Zealand was only reoccupied for breeding in 1990, and about 600 fur seal pups were born there in 2004, said Bruce Robertson, a seal specialist and senior lecturer in zoology at Outage University.

He said the long-term losses for the population could be dire. The attacks killed 13 breeding females, which meant 13 pups dependent on their milk would die and fewer pups will be born next year, Robertson said.

"Given this colony is increasing in size, this loss of life is a small setback," he said on Monday. "However, large mammal populations cannot sustain the repeated loss of breeding females (and) any external influences can be detrimental."

Other live seals at the colony had been seen with injuries for the attacks, Department of Conservation area manager Dave Hayes said. The weapon used was a bat or club, he said.

Under New Zealand law, killing or harming fur seals or other marine mammals incurs up to six months in prison or a fine of up to 250 000 New Zealand dollars ($191 000).

A further fine of up to $7,600 for each marine mammal killed or harmed can also be imposed by the court.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
Read more on:    marine life

linking and moving

2015-04-22 07:36 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Rugby World Cup 2015

All the action from the 2015 RWC, including live coverage of all 48 matches, breaking news, fixtures, results, logs - and much more!


Rugby World Cup 2015

UK expert: Boks ‘have KO game’
Ireland hold on to down Italy
As it happened: Ireland 16-9 Italy
All Blacks sympathise with England
Traffic Alerts

It is time to focus on your daily rhythm. Are you putting too much attention on future projects and neglecting the day to more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.