Owha the Leopard seal has found her way back to Northland.

But officials are asking people who come across her to be "socially responsible" and not post her exact location on social media as they don't want people flocking to see her and breaching Covid-19 lockdown rules.

During a Owha's most recent visit to Auckland police had to be called in to disperse a crowd that had gathered to see her.

For the past five years 300kg Owha has traded her home territory of Antarctica for the winterless north.


Experts are not sure why, but an abundant supply of fish and warmer waters must be an enticing alternative.

First spotted as a juvenile in Otago, she is the longest documented resident leopard seal worldwide, and is a regular visitor to Whangārei and Auckland.

Over the past few years 3m-long Owha has decided Whangārei Harbour has plenty to offer and has been spotted at Ruakākā, Marsden Cove Marina, McLeod Bay and Urquharts Bay. The furthest north she seems to have ventured is Tutukaka Harbour.

Ingrid Visser, co-founder of LeopardSeals.org, said Owha had been spotted in Whangārei Harbour on Wednesday.

If Owha stuck to her normal routine she could be in the area for the next one and a half months, Visser said.

She suggested people who came across Owha within the area they could walk under lockdown rules should contact the organisation.

"Be socially responsible and call the hotline number and we will document her location for the database. And where people are concerned about wildlife welfare they can also give us a call," Visser said.

During her earlier visits and while in Auckland, Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei named her "He owha na oku tupuna", or Owha for short, meaning treasured gift from our ancestors.


The creatures' common name comes from the collection of leopard-like black spots found on their bodies. Their scientific name is Hydrurga leptonyx, which translates to "slender-clawed water-worker".

Leopard seals were known to be aggressive when threatened and could move surprisingly quickly on land and seriously injure people or animals who approached them. People should stay at least 20m away and keep dogs on a leash.

Leopard seals are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. It is an offence to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill any seal. A dog owner whose dog attacks a seal could also face prosecution.

If you see Owha do not post her location online, only photos, as this might encourage breaking Covid 19 Level 4 rules.

Call 0800 LEOPARD (0800 536 7273) or email info@leopardseals.org to help track her movements.