A journey from vagrant to resident
Previously, when leopard seals were seen in New Zealand waters, it was thought the animals were simply here on a rare visit. But following recurring sightings, the traditionally Antarctic dwelling animals have been reclassified as a resident species in Aotearoa.
Dr Krista Hupman is a Marine Mammal Biologist/Ecologist at NIWA, and has been researching leopard seals in New Zealand waters for the past five years. Her work around these pinnipeds began when she was tasked with managing a leopard seal that was frequenting public areas in the Auckland region.
She has since co-founded the not-for-profit organisation, LeopardSeals.org, and manages a national database of leopard seal sightings and the 0800 LEOPARD sighting hotline. Her research has revealed that leopard seals are far more common in New Zealand than previously thought.
Dr Hupman’s talk will document her personal research journey. She will also describe how a group of dedicated researchers, volunteers, and citizen scientists from around New Zealand collected scientific information which supported a change in the leopard seals’ threat status from vagrant to resident.