Leopard seals granted resident status

Photo: Hamish MacLean
Photo: Hamish MacLean
Once considered a vagrant species, leopard seals have been granted resident status by the Department of Conservation.

In its Conservation status of New Zealand marine mammals, 2019, released on Sunday, the department noted leopard seals are now considered naturally uncommon, with fewer than 250 individuals in New Zealand, after ''an increasing frequency of sightings on the mainland, and new evidence that the species is continuously present in New Zealand''.

If the species were vagrant, this young female leopard seal, spotted in Oamaru Harbour in September - and identified by a Dunedin LeopardSeals.org research assistant - would have been one of only 15 individuals in New Zealand in any given year.

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