USB Stick Found in Leopard Seal’s Faeces is Still Working

New Zealand’s national science body has launched a search for the owner of a working USB stick, found in the frozen faeces of an Antarctic leopard seal.

The faeces had been stored in a freezer for over a year at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), where the USB was found by volunteers following a thorough examination.

The storage device shows a video taken by a kayaker paddling around Porpoise Bay in the Caitlins, on the southern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. In the video we see the tip of a blue kayak as it coasts through still waters, whilst a family of leopard seals playfully swim around the craft.

According to NIWA, leopard seal faeces are “so valuable to scientific research” that a team of dedicated volunteers collect scat “up and down the country” for analysis in the lab.

The scat gives the scientists useful information on what the predators eat, the quality of their health, and duration of time spent in New Zealand waters. The Guardian reports that the animals usually live and hunt in Antarctic waters, but are travelling north around New Zealand, something which is “puzzling” the researchers. They are currently looking into climate change as a potential cause for this deviation.

“We basically have to sift it,” says volunteer Jodie Warren, detailing the process of investigating leopard seal scat. “You put it under the cold tap, get all the gross stuff off, smoosh it around a bit and separate the bones, feathers, seaweed and other stuff”.

However, Warren was understandably unimpressed by the discovery of the USB stick in the scat, as it signified the proliferation of dangerous plastics in ocean mammals. She stated that it was “very worrying” to find such plastics in “these amazing Antarctic animals.”

In addition to the kayaking videos, there are also photos of sea lions, including a mother and her offspring playing in the shallows.

If you live in New Zealand, and would like to join in with leopard seal scat collection or recording sightings, then you can find out more information here.


Lead photo: Shutterstock.com

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Ed Carr is a Yorkshire-born landscape photographer and nature writer. Having spent his youth in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, he takes any opportunity to don his hiking boots and head out, camera in hand. When not out taking pictures or hastily scribbling down his thoughts, Ed’s halfway up a hill out chasing after his dog, Hendrix.

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