Owha the well-known Leopard Seal that has made Auckland’s Waitematā harbour its home for several years is believed to have been shot in the face. Three veterinarians have confirmed the puncture wound on the left side of her face is likely the result of a gunshot.
Experts monitoring Owha said she is doing okay so far. NIWA marine mammal biologist Dr Krista Hupman said the Leopard Seal was sleeping, eating and resting as normal.
Owha is well known in the Auckland harbour and likes to play with boat owners fenders and inflatables. This has led to some owners getting upset with her behaviour.
“The shooting of Owha was cowardly and illegal and for this reason Sea Shepherd is offering $5,000 for any evidence leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible. Endangered species are non-replaceable and thus more valuable than the material replaceable possession of human beings. A Leopard Seal is a beautiful and valued creature deserving of respect and protection”, says Captain Paul Watson (Sea Shepherd Founder).
Dr Hupman applauded Sea Shepherd for posting the reward and hoped it would motivate someone to come forward with the information needed to prosecute.
Owha was given her name from local iwi (Maori tribe) Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei. "He owha nā ōku tūpuna", means "treasured gift from our ancestors".
In 2018 Sea Shepherd offered a similar reward which successfully brought to justice the teenage killers of a juvenile Leopard Seal near Dargaville.
Under the Marine Mammals Protection Act it is an offence to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a seal.
Any person charged with one of these offences could face up to two years' imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000.
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