What to do if you see a wild animal this summer

A scientist is warning Kiwis to be responsible with how they interact with sea life as more sightings are reported across the country.

Wellington residents spotted a pod of orca in Oriental Bay on Wednesday, while late 2018 saw an elephant seal take up residence on Mission Bay  and another wander about in Whakatane.

NIWA scientist Dr Krista Hupman told RadioLIVE it's cool to see an animal in the flesh, but onlookers shouldn't get too close.

"I think that's definitely on the rise that people are out and about seeing these animals, and really dedicating their time of to be able to try and find these animals, I think that's a really good thing.

"However that can always turn bad, because too much of a good thing cannot be great for the animals if people are getting too close or sort of not respecting their privacy."

Dr Hupman said people need to think about the short-term risk the animal will attack them, as well as the long-term risk they pose to the animal.

"Are we disturbing them during a resting period? Are we disturbing them while they're having their calves? Are we preventing them from feeding when they should be?

"Those sorts of things have more long term effects, so I think that's about not only looking at short term what could happen to humans, but long term what are we doing to them if we're constantly interacting with them."

Dr Hupman recommends humans keep at least 20 metres away from animals, more if there are calves involved, and keep all pets and vehicles away too.

Most of all never try and touch the wild animals.

She said it's heartening to see many Kiwis are already following the rules, based on a recent trip to Kaikōura looking for orca.

"I managed to see them down on the coastline and it was really encouraging to see so many people, it was like a convoy of cars going from bay to bay to bay trying to see these animals from the shore.

"People had binoculars and cameras and just were really excited to see them even though they were 300 metres away."


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