Baby Seals and Their Mamas Clubbed in New Zealand

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REUTERS/Henning Bagger/Scanpix

In gruesome and just plain disheartening news, twenty-three seals were found clubbed to death at a popular tourist spot on New Zealand’s South Island. Eight of the animals were days-old pups when they were bludgeoned for no apparent reason.

The Department of Conservation has reported that the battered seals were found at the bottom of a cliff at Ohau Point Colony, a stretch of coastline north of the whale-watching hub of Kaikoura. The site draws about a million tourists a year. “I’m beyond appalled,” New Zealand’s conservation minister, Kate Wilkinson, told the AP, making a public appeal for help in tracking down those responsible.

The carcasses seem to suggest that the clubber killed the seals with a blunt instrument in forceful blows to the head over a period of about two weeks. Apparently, thirteen of the seals were breeding females, which will set back the local seal population and likely lead to the deaths of juvenile seals still dependent on their mothers.

(Read “Three-year-Old Boy Saves Endangered Sea Turtle.”)

Under the 1978 Marine Mammals Protection Act, the penalty for injuring the protected fur seal is six months jail time or a $250,000 fine. “This isn’t just a random act of violence,” Wilkinson said. “To go around and club twenty-three seals to death over a number of days is very deliberate.”

Calculated, yes, but the slaughter has seemingly nothing to do with the longstanding controversy over seal clubbing in Canada.