Tourists warned after approaching wild seals

Tourists came within 20m of the seals and two even touched the wild animals. Photo: Supplied vai NZME.
Tourists came within 20m of the seals and two even touched the wild animals. Photo: Supplied vai NZME.
An Auckland couple and the Department of Conservation are warning tourists about ignoring danger signs after a group approached and touched wild seals in the Tasman region.

On Tuesday afternoon an Auckland couple were at Wharariki Beach in Tasman when they witnessed a group of tourists ignoring Doc warning signings.

They said they saw up to a dozen tourists walk past the warning signs and make their way to a group of wild seals on the rocks.

Despite warnings to keep a distance away from the animals, the group is seen patting the wild sea creatures, putting both the animals and themselves in danger.

"They paid no attention to the Doc signs asking people to not harass the wildlife," the couple told the Herald.

"They stood right in front of the sign then carried on, and later on the beach they tried to pet the seal pup as though it was a tame animal.

"They were posing for photos, crouching down to get closer."

The couple decided to film the incident in the hope the footage would serve as a warning to the dangers tourists put themselves and sea life in.

Children were among the tourists up close to the wild seals.

The Auckland couple said they feared adults normalising interaction with wild and potentially dangerous animals could lead to children being injured.

"There were children also getting extremely close and trying to pat them.

"Children will copy adults. And before you know it a child will get bitten by a seal because they don't understand they're wild animals [and] believe they're going to behave like a puppy.

"On this occasion nobody was hurt, but children were copying their behaviour and, as we were leaving, a seal startled a young girl when she got too close to it. We just want people to know the dangers."

Doc has seen the footage and is warning tourists to follow the rules and steer clear of wild seals.

Doc communications advisor Trish Grant told the "Herald" seals and wild animals could become unpredictable when under stress and could inflict serious injuries on people.

"New Zealand fur seals are now experiencing a population comeback and recolonising much of their former range. This means we'll be seeing more of them playing along our rocky shorelines throughout mainland New Zealand.

"It is important you give them space, and remain 20 metres away at all times. Getting too close to seals can cause undue stress to the animal.

"Seals are wild animals and can act unpredictably when put under stress. They will defend themselves if they feel threatened.

"Adult seals can move surprisingly quickly on land. While they can look harmless, seals can inflict serious injuries to dogs or people and can carry infectious diseases."

• If people are concerned about seals because they are in danger, injured or being harassed by people or dogs, they should call the Doc emergency hotline 0800 Doc HOT (0800 362 468).

Doc guidelines for people around seals:

• Stay at least 20 metres away.

• Don't disturb seals by making loud noises or throwing things.

• Keep dogs and children away. Dogs can attack seals.

• Don't feed seals as they can become reliant on humans for food.

• Never attempt to touch a seal.

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