Scan shows seal could not live

Otago Daily Times - - General - MAR­GOT TAY­LOR


THE first MRI scan to be car­ried out on a seal has re­vealed a leop­ard seal pup born at St Kilda Beach in Dunedin never would have sur­vived.

The pup, which was born on Tues­day and eu­thanased on Wed­nes­day, was found to have had 10% of nor­mal lung ca­pac­ity.

Niwa cetacean bi­ol­o­gist and leop­ard seal spe­cial­ist Dr Krista Hup­man said the re­sults showed the pup’s lungs were filled with fluid and hardly work­ing.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately, this meant if the seal hadn’t been eu­thanased it would have en­dured a slow and painful death.

‘‘It was a huge re­lief for ev­ery­one in­volved to know that the de­ci­sion to put the pup down was the kind­est op­tion.’’

Dr Hup­man trav­elled to Dunedin from Auck­land with two stu­dents as soon as she found out the pup had been born.

It was the first birth of leop­ard seal to be wit­nessed and the sec­ond known leop­ard seal birth in New Zealand in the past 40 years.

Dr Hup­man ar­ranged the scans at Pa­cific Ra­di­ol­ogy in Dunedin in con­junc­tion with the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Otago Mu­seum staff af­ter the pup was eu­thanased.

‘‘We know an MRI has never been con­ducted on any seal be­fore, so this is an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity for us to learn more.’’

The birth and death of the pup had mo­ti­vated the for­mu­la­tion of a group in­volv­ing Niwa ex­perts, vol­un­teers and Otago Mu­seum staff so more re­search on the species could be car­ried out, Dr Hup­man said.

‘‘We are hop­ing to con­duct a necropsy, or an­i­mal au­topsy, on this pup and work to­gether on pub­lish­ing some of our find­ings from the CT and MRI scans.

‘‘We hope the necropsy will help us learn more about this species that cur­rently we know ex­tremely lit­tle about.’’


An MRI is car­ried out on the leop­ard seal pup that died this week.

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