Owha the leopard seal has made a name for herself through her love of residing in urban areas and now a study is being done to better understand leopard seal behaviour around humans and to identify ways in which the management of leopard seals in urban areas could be improved.
Owha is a female leopard seal who has called the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland home for the past four years. She sleeps in marinas and on pontoons and swims around the Waitemata from Orakei to Riverhead.
University of Otago student Giverny Forbes, as part of her masters degree, is calling on anyone who has had an encounter with a leopard seal in an urban area. Participation will involve a semi-structured interview over the phone with the main questions approved by the University of Otago human ethics committee.
This research aims to understand the public’s opinions of leopard seals and the potential dangers the public and the seals pose to each other, as well as to inform better management of leopard seals in this country.
Forbes has been working alongside LeopardSeals.org since 2016 and helped to monitor Owha since her arrival to Auckland and Northland.
Owha has been residing in New Zealand waters since at least 2012, when she was photographed off the coast of Dunedin.
Since then she travelled north and was first recorded off the coast of Northland at Ruakaka in June 2015. She has spent at least three years in the waters on the east coast of Northland and the Waitemata Harbour.
She was named by Ngati Whatua ki Orakei after she spent more than a year in their home waters and she's been documented at the Auckland Outboard Boating Club Marina, Westhaven Marina, Bays Water Marina, WestPark Marina, Te Atatu Boating Club, Gulf Harbour Marina, Sandspit Marina, Tutukaka Harbour Marina and Marsden Cove Marina.
For more information, contact Giverny Forbes on firstname.lastname@example.org. Links to the research questionnaires can be found below.