Photo of the week: Laughing leopard seal

Department of Conservation —  20/08/2014

Don’t get too close! It’s no laughing matter…

Today’s photo—of penguins observing a leopard seal in Antarctica—gives us our prompt to remind you to take care when in the vicinity of seals and sea lions.

Leopard seal. Photo: ravas51 | flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0.

Around this time of the year, leopard seals can come to rest on shore.

Over the past week two leopard seals have been spotted on New Zealand beaches.

This is a rare treat, but also no cause for alarm—they are generally not in trouble and don’t need help.

“Leopard seals usually have weepy eyes, snotty noses, and look thin, and this is quite normal. The only concern would be if they had a large wound or were entangled in something,” says DOC ranger Steve Harraway.

Although charismatic, leopard seals are wild animals and should be treated with respect. Keep in mind that these animals are very large, with powerful jaws, and can be unpredictable.

Below are some simple guidelines to follow when watching seals and sea lions so as not to compromise your safety or that of the animals:

  • Always stay at least 20 metres from seals. Allow them space if they are active.
  • Do not disturb seals. Don’t make loud noises or throw objects in their vicinity.
  • Always keep dogs and small children under control and away from seals.
  • Never attempt to touch or handle a seal. They can be aggressive if threatened.
  • You can also catch diseases from seals through their skin, sneezes, coughs and barks, and you may also carry diseases that can transfer to them and make them ill.
  • Do not feed any seal.

If you see a leopard seal you should call your local DOC office or 0800DOCHOT—particularly if you see someone harassing one. It is an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act to injure, harass or disturb a marine mammal.

Photo: ravas51 | flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0


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