A critically endangered sea lion has been shot and killed on the Otago Peninsula.
The one year old male was last seen alive on January 5 at the head of the Papanui inlet, suffering from a puncture wound that looked like a bullet hole.
It swam off before Department of Conservation staff could take a good look, but its remains have since been found along with its identification tag and a .22 calibre bullet.
New Zealand sea lions are listed as a nationally critical threatened species along with the kakapo and kiwi.
“Those that shoot marine mammals may be ignorant of how endangered their target is, but the law is simple – it is an offence to kill or harm any marine mammal,” DOC Coastal Otago Ranger Jim Fyfe said.
“It’s extremely concerning that a critically endangered species could be targeted in this way on the Otago Peninsula, celebrated for its wildlife”.
Massey University experts who studied photographs of the injured sea lion estimate it was shot no more than a couple of days before January 5.
DOC is asking the public to come forward with any information about firearm activity in the Papanui Inlet area around the time.