Added by James Morley on December 7, 2010
A New Zealand seal breeding colony has lost 23 of its inhabitants after attackers have been clubbing them to death over the past two weeks.
Conservation Minister Kate Wilkson has appealed to the public for help to track down the attackers, about whom she said: “… you have to question the state of mind of someone who can carry out such a cruel and abhorrent attack.”
The attack on the seals, including newborn pups, took place in Kaikoura, an international whale watching town, at the nearby Ohau Point seal colony in the northern parts of New Zealand’s South Island.
The spot is popular among tourists, but the delayed discovery could be due to the difficult terrain: the colony is located at the bottom of a 30 metre cliff, and there is no easy access to it, said Department of Conservation spokesman Rory Newsam.
Bruce Robertson, seal specialist and senior lecturer of zoology at the University of Otago, said the effects on the population could be serious: 13 breeding females were killed in the attack, which means 13 pups will die because they rely on the milk of their mothers. In addition, fewer pups will be born next year.
Killing or harming a fur seal, or other marine mammal, can under New Zealand law incur six months in prison or a fine of NZ$250,000 (US$191,000). An additional fine of NZ$7,000 per animal can also be handed out by the court.