Seal with horrific injuries washes up on a popular dog beach

·Environment Editor
·3-min read

Witnesses are heartbroken after a seal with excruciating injuries was left to suffer on a popular off-leash dog beach in Wellington, New Zealand.

Discovered at Oriental Bay on Sunday morning, the juvenile fur seal was incapacitated with a spiny dogfish barb embedded in its jaw.

Malnourished and unable to move, the seal was protected by volunteers from Sea Shepherd, HUHA NZ and Whale Rescue, while they waited for authorities to arrive.

The emaciated seal was discovered at Oriental Bay, New Zealand. Source: Supplied / HUHA NZ
The emaciated seal was discovered at Oriental Bay, New Zealand. Source: Supplied / HUHA NZ

Marine biologist Dr Ingrid Visser told Yahoo News Australia the barb would be “very painful” and could be preventing the seal from eating.

“When fur seals grab these fishes, they shake them violently because they don’t have hands to grasp and help rip off chunks,” she said.

“When they flick them about, sometimes these spines catch on their faces.”

Standing by the seal last night, HUHA’s Jono Lambregts described him as “very thin” and “exhausted”, with passing dogs and people a risk to themselves and the seal.

“If you're walking along in the night and you trip over him, anything can happen. That’s a health and safety problem for people and the animal,” he said.

“The animal has teeth and can turn around and bite.”

Public outraged by government's slow response to help seal

In New Zealand, members of the public are prevented from directly assisting seals until the Department of Conservation or accredited authorities arrive.

Witnesses to the animal’s deteriorating condition expressed frustration that despite being notified on Sunday morning, DOC did not attend the scene until Monday — almost 24 hours later.

“It’s too little too late,” one anonymous source said.

Left - the emaciated seal in close up. Right - volunteers at the beach on Sunday night.
Rescue volunteers protected the injured seal overnight. Source: Supplied / HUHA NZ

Social media comments flooded their website carried a similar tone, with people writing it was “unbelievable” he was “left to suffer” overnight.

“What the actual heck,” one person commented.

“This should have been dealt with yesterday,” someone else added.

“It’s taken way too long to help this baby,” another person said.

Authorities agree to euthanise injured seal

Laura Boren, Marine Science Advisor at DOC, said in a statement the department takes a “hands-off approach” when seals appear in “populated coastal areas” unless they are “ill or in immediate distress”.

She confirmed when DOC and a vet attended the scene on Monday morning, a decision was made to euthanise the seal.

“The vet did not believe that removing the spine would improve the seal’s chances of survival, so decided that euthanasia was the kindest option,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“We have moved the seal to a more secluded location to euthanise and bury it.”

Ms Boren urged members of the public to remain at least 20 metres away from seals, and never feed them.

Anyone concerned about a seal’s welfare in New Zealand should contact 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

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