Heritage Collections - Kohikohinga Tukuihotanga
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Leopard Seal skull
Leopard Seal skull

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Leopard Seal skull

by Andrew Moffat  

A battered Leopard Seal skull in the Puke Ariki collection tells of a violent death on a New Plymouth beach. This fearsome looking skull, which has been shattered and then carefully reconstructed, belongs to a stray beast which hauled up to rest on Ngamotu Beach in 1974 only to be confronted by police.

The details of what came next are still shrouded in mystery but the Antarctic voyager, which was over two metres long, was shot and killed and brought into Taranaki Museum.
At the time the reason given for the shooting was "because it couldn't walk."
While this is true in one sense, as Leopard Seals can't raise up on their front flippers, it seems an inadequate justification with the benefit of hindsight.
Leopard seals, which can grow up to about 3 ½ metres long and weigh 300-500kgs, are formidable hunters that feed on fish and krill but are capable of killing penguins, other seals and small dogs just as easily. The seals live on the Antarctic pack ice and they are infrequent visitors to the Taranaki coast. Thankfully, most of them return to sea unmolested. Ref: A78.578
Information and images from the Puke Ariki collection may not be reproduced, transmitted or copied without permission except for the purposes of private study and research, criticism and review, or education consistent with the New Zealand Copyright Act 1994. Please contact the Puke Ariki Image Service for any further permissions.

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