Owha back at Westhaven
Operating a marina that a potentially dangerous predator, a Leopard Seal, chooses to spend a lot of time in was a new experience for the Westhaven Marina team in 2016-17.
While our seal, Owha, departed over winter to spend time in the sunny north, following sightings in November, Cetacean Biologist/Ecologist from NIWA, Dr Krista Hupman, has followed Owha’s journey and confirms that she has returned, and also that at least one other has also been sighted in Auckland.
“The first animal was sighted on Friday 17/11 at Rangitoto and we have now confirmed this is Novy. This animal is a well-known individual to us and she was first seen in Whangarei where she stayed for three months and was last sighted in June 2017,” says Dr Hupman.
Dr Hupman says her team then received news on Monday (20/11) of another leopard seal at Westhaven Marina but only had a Westhaven customer’s photographs which showed a dark wet body so they couldn’t confirm who it was. The following day a leopard seal researcher who is part of her team was able to photograph the animal at Dead Man’s Corner (the NE corner of Westhaven) and confirmed it was Owha. The last time Owha was photographed in Whangarei was 11/11 and she has been there ever since she left Westhaven in March, where she was marina hopping between Tutukaka Marina and Marsden Cove Marina.
Dr Hupman says this is the first time worldwide that two leopard seals have been tracked for so long (Owha has been in NZ for five years!) so it’s exciting to her team of scientists, who have also set up a website, www.leopardsseals.org.nz, with photos and guides to help you identify the known individuals and report sightings.
While Owha spent last summer at Westhaven without incident, it’s important to be careful and vigilant while she is here. If you see any seal at Westhaven please stay 20 metres back, keep dogs on a leash and children close to you, be cautious at night, and call the marina team if you have any concerns. Dr. Hupman and her colleagues would also appreciate any sightings of leopard seals to be reported to their new free call hotline on 0800 LEOPARD (0800 5367273).
Click for more information about seals at Westhaven
This story was part of our special Christmas newsletter