Large leopard seal makes new home near downtown Auckland

  • 15/09/2016
The female leopard seal at Westhaven (Andrew Miller / NIWA)
The female leopard seal at Westhaven (Andrew Miller / NIWA)

A leopard seal has swapped the icy waters of Antarctica to take up residence at an Auckland marina and is stopping divers from working.

The female seal has made herself at home at Westhaven Marina, mere minutes from downtown Auckland, and because they've been known to be aggressive towards humans a surveillance dive of the area by Niwa's marine biosecurity team has had to be postponed.

The Department of Conservation has posted signs warning of the danger the blubbery mammal poses to the public and it urges people to stay 20m away from it.

It advises keeping dogs and small children away and avoiding getting between it and the water.

NIWA marine ecology technician Andrew Miller says she's at least 3m long, and biosecurity diving team are giving her space.

"They're taking a very conservative point of view, if we don't need to dive we won't dive."

"They're instinctively a predator, they're curious, and not used to being in close proximity to humans, which they might think is a penguin."

He says leopard seals visit New Zealand coasts occasionally, and this one is "a bit unusual because it's hung around longer than expected".

She's found a niche and isn't bothered by the warmth at Westhaven, he says, but hopefully she'll move on soon.

Female seals can weigh up to 450kg and the department says they are known to frequent New Zealand during winter. They are a protected species. To find out more about leopard seals, see the DoC page here.

NZN / Newshub.