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A rare and special visitor to the New Zealand mainland — a crabeater seal — died at Tomahawk Beach yesterday, only about four days after arriving.
Department of Conservation coastal Otago district biodiversity ranger Jim Fyfe said the vagrant seal was a long way from its usual home on pack ice near the Antarctic.
"A special visitor, and I know a number of people connected with it will be sad to hear the news," Mr Fyfe said last night.
The male seal might have been ill, had been seen eating sand, and had died about mid-afternoon yesterday.
The seal had since been frozen, while discussions continued about its future, and it could yet become part of the Otago Museum’s collections, he said.
A crabeater seal was seen elsewhere on Otago shores last July — the first of the species on record to visit the region.
This week’s visit was only the ninth confirmed sighting of the species on the mainland since 1885.
The seal’s demise was "a bit disappointing", Mr Fyfe said.
"I know quite a few people made the effort to visit him over the week and took that very rare opportunity to see a crabeater seal," he said.