26 May 2015

Runaway seal returned to wild

1:45 pm on 26 May 2015

The seal that has become a bit of a local celebrity in south Auckland is on the back of a ute and heading for a more suitable home.

For a second day it has been attracting attention in Papakura, after coming ashore yesterday.

This morning it made itself at home in a carwash.

Department of Conservation staff and marine experts eventually got it into a cage, and it is now being taken to Clarks Beach in the southern Manukau Harbour where it will be released out of the public eye.

Police called the Fire Service at about 3am when the seal was noticed sheltering in a carwash at the Papakura shops in Great South Road.

DoC staff capture the seal at a car wash in Papakura.

DoC staff capture the seal at a car wash in Papakura. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

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The seal decided to take a nap in the carwash. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

It is the same seal that surprised drivers on Coles Crescent yesterday morning when it came up from the Pahurehure inlet on to the road.

It had been coaxed back back to the estuary after being seen in a driveway yesterday but pictures on social media last night seemed to show it outside the McDonalds kiosk in Great South Road.

This morning, it was happily sleeping in the carwash downstairs, with police, Department of Conservation staff and a steady stream of onlookers keeping watch.

Stefan Sedregts from DoC has been at the scene and was working with marine specialists to move the estimated 120kg seal to a safer place.

"Worst case scenario is indeed that it has to be sedated for us to safely move it," he told Morning Report.

Yesterday it was hoped that, being close to the estuary, the seal would get hungry and go back to its normal territory, he said.

But the seal was not posing any danger to itself or the public. "It's quite happily lying on the concrete having a little bit of a nap," he said.

Mr Sebregts said seal visits were more common than people thought with previous sightings in Henderson and Dairy Flat.

Police and DoC staff are not the only ones tracking the runaway mammal - by early afternoon it had some 700 Twitter followers.