New Zealand

Surprising find for NIWA scientists in year-old seal poo

16:45 pm on 5 February 2019

Volunteers scouring through some critical seal poo evidence for a NIWA research have come across a surprising find.

This photo of a sealion on a Southland beach was found on a USB stick swallowed by a leopard seal. Photo: NIWA

NIWA marine biologist Krista Hupman and a team from work together to collect the poo, known scientifically as scat and about the size of two bread rolls, from around the country.

This particular scat was collected from a skinny leopard seal on Oreti Beach, Invercargill, back in November 2017 and has been in the freezer since then.

Now, two volunteers defrosting the sample - to be analysed by Dr Hupman - discovered a USB stick concealed deep inside the scat.

"It is very worrying that these amazing Antarctic animals have plastic like this inside them," said volunteer Jodie Warren, who found the item.

Even more surprising was that the memory stick was in reasonably good condition, considering where it had come from, NIWA said.

The stick had been left out to dry for a couple of weeks in the hopes of seeing the information it contained.

Ironically, there are photos of sealions at Porpoise Bay in the Caitlins and a video of a mum and baby sealion frolicking in the shallows.

NIWA said the only clue in the photos as to who might have taken them was the nose of a blue kayak.

They are now on the search for owner of the USB.

Scat is used by researchers to look at seals eat, their health and how long they may have been in New Zealand waters.