An ailing leopard seal that washed up on Lyall Bay in the capital on Friday has died under anaesthetic on the way to Wellington Zoo.
The 1.5m mammal was far away from its natural habitat in Antarctic and sub Antarctic waters.
Zoo veterinarian Lisa Argilla said the animal was in poor condition, extremely skinny and could barely move when she assessed it at the beach on Friday afternoon.
"It's got a really massive lump in its throat; it smells terrible when it opens its mouth and what I suspect is going on is that it's got a really huge abscess blocking up its oesophagus.
''So I think the poor animal hasn't actually been able to eat for many weeks and it's just been starving and it's just washed up because it is so weak and really, really unwell."
Dr Argilla said the zoo will probably incinerate the seal when a post mortem has been conducted in case it has an infectious disease.
Wellington SPCA staff set up a cordon around the seal at the scene on Friday morning to protect it. Department of Conservation staff were also on hand.
Leopard seals are fierce predators and are considered the most formidable hunters of all seals. They prey on other seals and also on penguins and other seabirds.