Leopard seal sightings have spiked during the level 4 lockdown.
Three different leopard seals were seen yesterday on the beaches of Christchurch: New Brighton, North Waimairi and Woodend.
Leopardseals.dot.org founder Dr. Krista van der Linde said it was not unusual for marine mammals to be spotted off the New Zealand coast at this time of year.
But he said it seemed like more people were about to see them.
“With the limited exercise that people can get indoors and the gyms closed, I guess that’s pushing more people to go out and take their nature walks, so we’re getting a lot more people to report that … before , which is really cool. “
These citizen science reports were crucial for the researchers, van der Linde said.
“Our entire research team is really based on New Zealand citizen scientists, basically New Zealand people who keep us going and keep bringing all these sightings; they are really valuable to us.”
Van der Linde said sightings around the Christchurch coast appeared to be increasing, although Dunedin remained the hotspot for leopard seals.
“I suppose [Christchurch] it’s a little further offshore from there [Dunedin], so we are not very sure if it will continue to increase over the years.
“It is also quite difficult to unravel: is it a population issue, is it that more people are seeing more, or have they always been there?
“That is the difficult question.”
Meanwhile, the leopard seal named Owha, a longtime resident of the waters around Auckland, has not moved further north as it normally would, van der Linde said.
“So if Covid and the lockdowns have meant that people are quieter and haven’t been in the water that long, and she’s had a little more peace and quiet and therefore stayed, it’s hard to predict why what hasn’t done that. move. “
Van der Linde said that Owha seemed to continue touring Auckland in his usual places and that he is in good condition.
Anyone who sees a leopard seal should keep their distance, about 20 meters away, for the animal’s safety and well-being, as well as their own; leopard seals can be dangerous if they attack.
People should also be aware of alert level rules when exercising on beaches where wildlife may be present.
Canterbury photographer Julie Chandelier said she had been lucky enough to visit one of the leopard seals while on a Christchurch beach.
It had attracted many “excited” visitors, but said Sunday that some people had approached, within safe perimeter distance.
“There were quite a few people who got too close today, including young children, which resulted in us building a little barrier out of driftwood.”
Chandelier said the behavior had changed after that, and understood that the DOC had also asked police to visit the site to help with visitor management.