Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Jim Fyfe searches for a sea lion pup in the sand dunes at the eastern end of Tomahawk Beach in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Dogs and vehicles are temporarily banned from the eastern end
of Tomahawk Beach to protect the first sea lion pup born in
the Dunedin area this season.
But despite several signs on and around the beach, people
have been walking dogs and driving vehicles in the
cordoned-off area, to the dismay of the Department of
Conservation and Dunedin City Council.
Doc biodiversity ranger Jim Fyfe checked on the pup yesterday
and was disappointed to see fresh tyre tracks indicating
''donuts'' had been performed on the sand directly below
where the mother sea lion had been hiding her female pup.
Under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978, no vehicles are
allowed within 50m of marine mammals.
Mr Fyfe also noted several fresh dog tracks inside the
He said the young mother sea lion was particularly ''toey''
and a light sleeper, and should not be agitated.
Doc staff were trying to determine if she was one of two
known females called Lena and Madeline, neither of which was
The department relied on nearby residents and the wider
community to report any sightings of dogs and vehicles inside
the cordon, and was also being assisted by the council's dog
Volunteers were patrolling the beach regularly, as well,
educating people about sea lions and the temporary cordon.
Mr Fyfe said the pup was born about three weeks ago in the
sand dunes, where it had been hiding since.
The mother regularly fed out at sea, and was usually gone for
between 12 and 20 hours, he said.
It would move the pup away from Tomahawk Beach once the pup
was old and strong enough, which could be in another three
The pup was the third born on Tomahawk Beach in as many
years, Mr Fyfe said.
In January 2012, a mother sea lion called Gem and her pup
Marama were sedated and moved off the central part of the
beach to a more remote location.
When Marama was about a year old she was found dead, and was
believed to have been ''drowned'' by a male sea lion, Mr Fyfe
Another pup born last summer on the western end of the beach,
which was cordoned off, died soon after from disease.
Mr Fyfe said five or six pups were expected to be born in and
around Dunedin this summer.
Five were born last year, two of which died of disease.
He said all the adult females in the area descended from a
sea lion called Mum, which gave birth to the first of many
pups at Taieri Mouth in January 1994.