Missing USB stick travels up food chain

Amanda Nally, who sent away a sample of leopard seal faeces and was stunned to discover the...
Amanda Nally, who sent away a sample of leopard seal faeces and was stunned to discover the animal appeared to have eaten her missing USB stick. Photo: Linda Robertson
In the song it was the woman who swallowed the fly, the bird and the cat.

But in this truth is stranger than fiction story, it was the leopard seal which swallowed the bird, and scientists believe the bird had swallowed a USB stick which belonged to Catlins resident Amanda Nally.

Mrs Nally lost the digital device a few days ago, after she had used it to back up footage shot on her cellphone of a sea lion and its pup in the waters off Porpoise Bay.

She presumed she would never see it again, but through a bizarre series of coincidences the device has been found — inside a lump of frozen leopard seal poo which Mrs Nally herself had sent to Niwa scientists.

"I thought I must have dropped it in the poo, but Niwa thinks that is unlikely as the guys who defrosted it said it (the USB) was really embedded.

"Their theory is that I dropped it, a bird ate it, and then the leopard seal ate the bird ... and then I turn up and say ‘Oh look, that looks like some seal poo, I had better bag that’."

The faeces offers valuable information to scientists about the animal’s diet, and as a sea lion advocate Mrs Nally helps out by sending samples left by the wildlife which lives near her house.

After making their unusual discovery, Niwa tested the USB, discovered it still worked, and issued a press release appealing for its owner to contact them — not knowing that the owner was actually the person who had sent the sample in the first place.

On Tuesday night, Mrs Nally was at home with half an eye on the television when she saw some footage which looked familiar.

"It’s favourite footage of mine, I have it backed up," she said.

Hence, Niwa was welcome to keep her seal poo-encrusted USB stick, Mrs Nally said.


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