Niwa scientists analysing the scat of leopard seals have come across an unexpected discovery – a USB stick full of photos and still in working order.

They are now on the hunt for the rightful owner of the device.

The only clue they have about the owners of the photo and video lies in one of the pieces of footage found in the USB device, showing they were on a blue kayak.

Niwa volunteers were defrosting the scat to analysing - as Niwa puts it, "theirs is not glamorous work" - when they found "something large and hard".

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This particular scat had been collected by a local vet checking on the health of a skinny leopard seal resting on Oreti Beach, Invercargill. The sample was then frozen until November 2017, when two volunteers got it out to defrost and analyse.

This photo of a sea lion on a Southland beach was found on the USB stick swallowed by a leopard seal. Photo / Unknown
This photo of a sea lion on a Southland beach was found on the USB stick swallowed by a leopard seal. Photo / Unknown

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

The USB stick was found to be in "reasonably good condition considering where it had come from". They left it to dry out for a couple of weeks and found photos of sealions at Porpoise Bay in the Caitlins and a video of a mum and baby sealion frolicking in the shallows.

"If they're yours and you want the USB stick back, it comes with a price. The leopard seal researchers would like some more leopard seal scat please," Niwa said in a release.

"The more we can find out about these creatures, the more we can ensure they are looked after."