With international travel off the cards for a little while yet, one Australian man has still managed to have an Antarctic experience — on a beach in South Australia.
TikTok user Flynn Webb came across a leopard seal, an animal that usually resides in Antarctica, during an evening coastal stroll, recording himself touching it thinking it was dead.
He received a huge shock when it lashed out at him, very much alive.
"Leopard seal in South Australia," he captioned the clip, which has over 2.4 million likes so far.
In the video, he approaches the seal saying, "well I've officially touched —"
He's then cut off by the seal turning around, causing him to let off a string of colourful words as he jumped back from the furious-looking creature.
A second video showed the seal on the sand still, as shocked onlookers stood around it.
Although native to Antarctica, seal leopards have been spotted in Tasmania, and Heron Island in Queensland.
Why are so many leopard seals appearing on beaches lately?
Biodiversity Conservation Technician John van den Hoff from the Department of Agriculture, Water, and Environment, Australian Antarctic division says sighting a leopard seal is highly unusual, particularly off the coast of South Australia.
"My guess is these individuals have dispersed beyond the winter pack ice edge into subantarctic and more temperate waters in search of food," he told Yahoo News Australia.
He estimated only five to 10 are spotted each year in Australia, although credits lockdowns and people being outside more for the increase in sightings.
"If you see a leopard seal take a photo and don’t worry or try to chase it back into the sea, the animal is likely resting on land, a natural behaviour for a seal but not for a whale," he advised.
He also urged people to report their sightings of seals to the local parks and wildlife department, and to not feed it any food.
"Appreciate it for what it is, an Antarctic seal species, a competent predator which usually feeds on krill, fish and seabirds (esp penguins) that has swum about 4000 km from Antarctica to South Australia," he continued, adding: "Stay clear they bite."
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