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A sea lion suffered a slow, painful death in the Catlins after being shot over Easter.
The Department of Conservation issued a statement about the incident after the body of a male sea lion was found with fatal gunshot wounds at Jacks Bay in the Catlins.
The sea lion clambered on to the beach to lie in the dunes over the holiday weekend, but later died from severe blood loss.
Doc acting operations manager for Murihiku Chris Bowen said the sea lion appeared to be in good condition before being shot and would have suffered a slow, painful death.
``While we we not able to save it, a vet ... supervised a necropsy which showed that the sea lion had been shot causing a haemorrage in its lungs.''
He urged the public to come forward with any information on the incident.
``We are fortunate that members of the Jacks Bay community reported the animal to Doc.''
The shooting of an endangered animal was hard to comprehend.
There were only about 10,000 New Zealand sea lions left so to lose one in this way was ``particularly tragic''.
Dean Whaanga, from Awarua Runanga, said it was extremely sad to see this protected animal treated in such a way.
``They have the right to exist in their environment and must be respected as such.''
Doc was leading an investigation into the incident and police have been alerted.
``A huge amount of thanks goes to the Jacks Bay community with their support with this incident,'' Mr Whaanga said.
It was illegal to injure or kill sea lions and those responsible could face serious penalties which included up to two years' imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978.
They could also face five years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
Anyone with information about the incident should contact the Murihiku/ Invercargill Doc office on 03 211-2400 or call the Doc hotline 0800 362-468.