Owha the leopard seal has made a welcome return to Auckland keeping cautious crowds entertained as she spent Labour Day basking in the sun.
She was spotted this morning down at Taipari Strand on the Te Atatu Peninsula.
Owha, a 3m-long female, is a familiar sight in Auckland. She was resident in Auckland waters from September 2015 to March 2017, and spent much of 2017 moving between Whangārei and Tutukaka.
A child was overheard telling their parent they were disappointed Owha wasn't balancing a ball on her nose and performing tricks.
Leopard seal research and protection team LeopardSeals.org said Owha had been residing in New Zealand waters since at least 2012, when she was photographed off the coast of Dunedin (South Island).
Owha is short for her name "He owha nā ōku tūpuna", which translates to "treasured gift from our ancestors", received from Auckland hapū Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei.
She particularly liked hauling out and resting on marina pontoons, and had been documented at the Auckland Outboard Boating Club Marina, Westhaven Marina, Bays Water Marina, WestPark Marina, Te Atatu Boating Club, Gulf Harbour Marina, Sandspit Marina, Tutukaka Harbour Marina and Marsden Cove Marina.
A LeopardSeals.org spokesman said Owha has been in and around New Zealand for the past six years and spends most of her time between Northland and Auckland.
He said if members of the public spot a leopard seal they should contact LeopardSeals.org so they can help track the individual.
"That way we can gather more data and educate public about how to stay safe around the seal," the spokesman said.
"If the seal has an injury or is being harassed though they should contact the Department of Conservation on 0800 DOC HOT."
Department of Conservation guidelines for watching seals:
• Stay at least 20 metres away
• Don't disturb the seals by making loud noises or throwing things
• Avoid getting between the seals and the water
• Keep dogs and children away
• Don't feed the seals
• Never attempt to touch a seal.