HLNZ-001, also known as “Owha” was the first leopard seal ever entered into the New Zealand Leopard Seal Catalogue. She is a female, 3.1 m seal who has been residing in New Zealand waters since at least 2012, when she was photographed off the coast of Dunedin (South Island). Since then she traveled north and was first recorded off the coast of Northland at Ruakaka on the 1st of June 2015. She has since resided in the waters on the east coast of Northland and the Waitemata Harbour, adjacent to Auckland city. Owha particularly likes hauling out and resting on marina pontoons.
Owha is short for her Māori name “He owha nā ōku tūpuna” which translates to mean “treasured gift from our ancestors”. She received this name from the local Māori hapu (sub-tribe or clan), Ngati Whatua ki Orakei, after she spent more than a year in their home waters.
If you find Owha, or any other leopard seal in a marina, particularly on the narrow marina pontoons, do not approach without first seeking advice from the Marina Management team and asking about their protocols. If you or they have concerns, please contact us on 0800 LEOPARD (0800 5367273).
Additionally, please note that because Owha likes visiting marinas, she is also vulnerable to boat strike – please do not approach closer than 20 m in your boat and please slow down if you have sighted her. She can be very difficult to spot as very little of her body or head typical protrude above the water surface.
We ask that you please report any sightings of Owha or any other leopard seals (including historic ones) to us in order to help us better understand and therefore protect leopard seals in New Zealand.