Archives For marine mammals

If you’re here from overseas visiting our unique nature; or are from elsewhere in the country exploring your wider backyard, here are some hot tips to treat wildlife the Kiwi way.

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With reports of fur seals and penguins being harassed by dogs, Science Advisor Laura Boren is working to find a balance between protecting wildlife and allowing dog owners the ability to exercise their pups.

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From the rugged west coast beaches, to the majestic kauri forest and the picture-perfect white sand vistas, Northland is a draw card for nature and summer lovers. Wherever your Northland adventure may take you, follow these tips to help protect our taonga.

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Project Jonah recently visited Aotea/Great Barrier Island, giving locals the knowledge to help stranded cetaceans return to the ocean.

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The main focus of Andrew Wright’s job right now is to help to minimise the impacts of seismic surveys on marine mammals.

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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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Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Nadine Bott, Project Leader for the Cook Strait Whale Project based in Wellington.

At work

Collecting biopsy samples from humpback whales in the Cook Strait. Photo: Marlborough Express.

Collecting biopsy samples of humpback whales

Some things I do in my job include:

I’m currently overseeing the Cook Strait whale project. Before going on maternity leave in 2012 I was with DOC for almost 10 years working in the marine and freshwater teams. My role at the moment involves keeping the project afloat, organising the logistics of the whale survey, undertaking the research and then writing up the season’s work. The research involves spotting for humpback whales from a land based lookout on East Head of Tory Channel, going out in the DOC Kaikoura boat ‘Titi’ and approaching the whales to take photo identification samples of the tail flukes and biopsy skin samples for DNA analysis.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

It is a collaborative project with the community and business with considerable volunteer support, while achieving (hopefully!) a greater understanding of humpback whales to aid in their conservation, management and protection.

The best bit about my job is:

Working with a variety of different people within DOC and externally, working with whales and having an ‘office’ in a pretty spectacular place.

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

While working in the subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands. Pretty hard place to beat in terms of ‘awesome-est’. I would love to go back one day.

Nadine measuring Chatham Island mudfish.

Measuring Chatham Island mudfish – an endemic poorly known freshwater fish

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

I would have to say the RMA planners that I worked with, Sarah Bagnall, Janice Duncan and Claire Graeme – three incredibly smart, enquiring, passionate and courageous women. Another would be Roy Grose, an inspiring leader loved by his community and who has always been supportive and instrumental in getting the whale survey up and running. I have great respect for the rangers in the field who give their heart, energy and time to conservation with little reward or expectation of reward.

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is:

At the moment it is Birdy ‘Light me up’.

My greatest sporting moment was when:

While walking 100 kilometres for Oxfam I remember complaining that my burst blisters hurt more than childbirth and a lady who overheard my comment said ‘you obviously haven’t given birth’. My naive response was ‘you obviously haven’t walked 100 kilometres on burst blisters’.

Nadine with her camera taking photos of humpback whales in Cook Strait.

Photo identification of humpback whales in Cook Strait

In my spare time:

I don’t have any.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be:

I have a few favourite animal species but I like to be warm and they all seem to live in cold water.

Before working at DOC:

I worked at Massey University doing autopsies on stranded and bycaught marine mammals.

Nadine and her family at WOMAD.

At WOMAD with my family: David, Dayananda (2) and Aroha (3 months)

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given:

That I can do it and not to listen to skeptics.

In work and life I am motivated by:

Compassion, selflessness, people in action

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

Stand up for what you believe in.

Nadine with Carlos Olavarria and Joe Heberley looking for humpbacks through binoculars from Arapawa Island.

With Carlos Olavarria and Joe Heberley (ex-whaler from Perano Whaling Station) looking for humpbacks

Question of the week…

What is your favourite marine mammal and why?

A tricky question because every species I have worked on has had its unique strength or endearing characteristic. I would probably have to say southern right whales because when I worked with them it was in the Auckland Islands where they were breeding and this is a pretty spectacular site plus there were calves which are incredibly cute. The whales were interactive, gentle and very visible with lots of breaching, tail slapping and rolling around on the water surface. It is easy to see how they were hunted so effectively by shore based whalers leading to their near extinction.

Nadine and others audio conferencing with LEARNZ students.

Live audio conferencing with schools as part of the LEARNZ Wandering Whales virtual field trip