A $5000 reward is being offered for information about the "cowardly and illegal" shooting of Auckland's treasured leopard seal.

Owha the seal, who is 3.1 metres long and weighs 400kg, was spotted bleeding from her face at the weekend from a suspected bullet wound.

An examination this afternoon found she was in good health externally, but was still breathing from one nostril and internal damage has not been ruled out.

Marine conservation society Sea Shepherd has put up a $5000 reward for any evidence leading to the conviction of the person or people responsible for shooting the seal.


Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson said endangered species were non-replaceable and more valuable than the material replaceable possession of human beings.

"A leopard seal is a beautiful and valued creature deserving of respect and protection."

The seal is still seeping blood from where the bullet wound is, but has been spotted on her favourite pontoon near Westhaven Marina.

Niwa marine mammal biologist Dr Krista Hupman said Owha is showing positive signs in that she was still sleeping, eating and resting as normal.

LeopardSeals.org was working with DoC and were working around the clock to closely monitor her in case there were any behavioural changes. Owha was not being sedated at this stage as there were concerns that she might slip off the pontoon and into the water and drown before it kicked in.

Hupman applauded Sea Shepherd for putting up a monetary reward and hoped it would encourage more people to come forward with more concrete information.

The LeopardSeals.org hotline had received details around who may have shot the seal but no names had been given. The information had been passed on to police and the Department of Conservation.

"It's really important for us to find who may have done this. It's not only against the law, but it's really provoking behaviour from a leopard seal that we really don't want. We really don't want a leopard seal to see humans as aggressive, and then become aggressive back at us."


Sea Shepherd offered a similar reward when a young leopard seal was killed after it was shot in the face in 2018 on a Northland beach and helped lead to the prosecution of four teenage boys, she said.

DOC Auckland operations manager Kirsty Prior said DOC was working with leading vets for advice about Owha and the latest advice was that she was looking good externally, but only using one nostril to breathe.

"There is concern for any internal damage that has been caused by the wound, but this can only be determined by further monitoring."

Prior said they have received reports from the public regarding information about Owha and her injury, but they were unable to share further details at this stage.

Sightings of Owha or any other leopard seals should be reported to the LeopardSeals.org hotline on 0800 LEOPARD (0800 536 7273).

Leopard seals are a native species and protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978.

Anyone charged under the act with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a seal faces a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or a fine to a maximum of $250,000.

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