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Sea lion and pup hit by vehicle in Coastal Otago

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is appealing for information following the tragic death of a rāpoka/New Zealand sea lion mum and pup on a Coastal Otago road on Wednesday night.

Eight-year-old Matariki and her one-month-old pup were struck by a vehicle as they crossed Kaka Point Road near Balclutha. At the time of the accident, Matariki was likely taking her pup to a new spot to rest and may have been nursing the pup on the road.

Both Matariki and her pup were found badly injured by a passing motorist who notified DOC. Sadly, the pup has since died and due to her severe injuries Matariki was euthanised by a vet yesterday.

DOC Murihiku Operations Manager, John McCarroll says Matariki was much loved by the local community and the two deaths are a tragic loss for the New Zealand sea lion population.

"Matariki was gifted her name by local whanau. She was a taonga of the sea lion population at Kaka Point. Over the years she had developed a habit of giving birth to pups in unique places such as under a crib or in a farmer’s shed."

Te Rūnaka o Awarua kaiwhakahaere Dean Whaanga says Rapoka are a taonga species for Ngāi Tahu and Matariki will be greatly missed.

"Our whanau are saddened by our loss of Matariki and her pup. She had a special place in our hearts."

DOC is encouraging the driver of the vehicle that hit Matariki to come forward or for witnesses to contact the Murihiku DOC office on 03-211 2400.

"We understand accidents happen, but its important people inform DOC if they do hit native wildlife. All New Zealand sea lions are named, tagged and well known within their community. This is a huge loss for Kaka Point residents," says John McCarroll.

"By talking to the driver we’re hoping to understand more about what has happened and identify ways of protecting sea lions from accidents like this in the future.

"This is a timely reminder; we are sharing our coastal roads with wildlife and vehicles need to slow down."

"It’s important we remember to keep an eye out for other native wildlife on the roads such as korora/little blue penguins and kekeno/New Zealand fur seals which can cross the road at any time.

The New Zealand sea lion is classified as "Nationally Vulnerable". Ninety eight percent of breeding occurs on Campbell and the Auckland Islands, but there are also small populations on the lower South Island and Stewart Island. Kaka Point is home to six other known breeding sea lions and pups. "Matariki has previously given birth to two other pups who have since returned to the area. Rāpoka are local personalities within the wider community and this tragic loss will be felt by us all.

"We are hoping Matariki’s first born, Jade will have a pup of her own this year and it will be up to her to carry on Matariki’s whakapapa," says John McCarroll.

People can report sick, injured or dead wildlife by calling the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

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