Two New Zealand fur seals have been shot dead on the South Island's east coast, a "grotesque" act which has outraged the Department of Conservation.
DoC south Marlborough area manager David Hayes said an adult female and a young pup were found dead with large gunshot wounds to their heads at Ohau Point, north of Kaikoura, on Saturday.
The site is a mainland seal breeding colony which is visited by hundreds of people every day.
The bodies were found close to the parking area and lookout.
Nearby is the famous Ohau Waterfall, a "crèche" for newborn seals who appear there up to 60 at a time and tourist attraction.
"That attraction demonstrates how popular seals are and, to me, it makes people wantonly killing seals so grotesque," Mr Hayes said.
The size of the gunshot wounds indicated the seals were shot by a high-powered rifle or shotgun.
Police had been informed and DoC was also hunting those responsible.
It was thought the seals were killed sometime between late Friday and noon on Saturday, Mr Hayes said.
"If it wasn't in the depths of darkness then I'm hoping that someone travelling past would have seen someone with a firearm."
New Zealand fur seals are a protected species and anyone caught killing or harming them can face six months in jail or a $250,000 fine.
In 2010, 23 seals were bashed to death with a metal bar at the same location.
Renwick man Jason Godsiff was convicted for killing the mammals and initially sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
However, this was reduced to eight months' home detention on appeal.
Also in July 2010, Hayden John Ingram, of Kaikoura, was fined $500 and sentenced to 200 hours' community work for shooting a seal with a paintball gun, bashing it with a metal bar and running over a seal pup, killing both.
In 2008 Harley McKenzie was jailed for four months for his role in an attack on a leopard seal in which fist-sized stones were thrown at the seal and it was dragged around a beach by its tail.
In 2005, All Black Andrew Hore and friends Hamish Wilson and Matthew O'Connell were each fined $2500 after they shot at seals, killing one, on the Otago coast.
Anyone with information about the latest killings were urged to contact the Department of Conservation on (03) 5729100 or Kaikoura police on (03) 319 5038.