2 Oct 2018

'Complete stupidity': Antics near sea lions criticised

8:26 pm on 2 October 2018

By George Block for the Otago Daily Times

Visitors to a Dunedin beach have been caught on camera posing for photos and dancing close to protected sea lions, as a local wildlife expert says such behaviour is a constant frustration.

Dunedin woman Glynis Corson, of Company Bay, captured the footage at Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula yesterday.

It showed a young woman dancing in front of a large New Zealand sea lion on the beach.

After about 20 seconds the protected marine mammal became increasingly agitated and lunged at the woman, but she managed to get away.

Another photo she captured showed a visitor to the beach posing for a photo and waving beside another large sea lion.

Mrs Corson said she wanted to show tourists visiting New Zealand "what not to do''.

"I was just flabbergasted really, I could not believe it ... she didn't have a clue.'

"Complete stupidity getting so close.''

She was "really cross'' after the incident and confronted the woman and her friends, but they had very limited English and appeared not to understand her complaints.

There had been at least three groups of visitors to Sandfly Bay getting too close to sea lions yesterday, and she eventually took her young family home because she did not want to further worry the animals.

She suggested airlines could provide advice on viewing wildlife along with their pre-flight safety videos.

New Zealand sea lions (rāpoka/whakahao) are a nationally critically endangered species according to the Department of Conservation (DOC), with only about 12,000 remaining in the wild.

DOC biodiversity ranger Jim Fyfe said the dancing woman's behaviour was likely an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act and she risked a hefty fine.

There were a few people every season who got too close to local wildlife, he said.

"It's a constant frustration.''

He urged people to keep at least 10m away from sea lions.

While the animals were not typically aggressive, they were large and powerful and had much more powerful bite than a dog, Mr Fyfe said.

- This story was first published on the Otago Daily Times website

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