Leopard seal comes ashore at Ballina

VIDEO: Leo the leopard seal extends his Ballina holiday

UPDATE 10.40am: MAYBE Leo the Antarctic leopard seal enjoyed all the attention he received on Shelly Beach yesterday more than we thought - because he's back.

Ballina Jet Boat Rescue has posted two new pictures of the seal on its Facebook page announcing its return.

"Our little friend named Leo is back & clearly enjoying our beautiful Ballina coastline," the Jetboat posted. "(It's) even managing a smile for the camera!"

Leo gives a big smile for the Ballina Jet Boat's camera at Shelly Beach.
Leo gives a big smile for the Ballina Jet Boat's camera at Shelly Beach.

That's a step up from yesterday when the Jet Boat crew was called to the beach to help deal with an "angry seal".

To be fair, you'd probably be a bit cranky too if your sleep was being continually interrupted by annoying humans who kept stopping to make cooing noises and take photos of you.

Still, Ballina's a beautiful place and the humans Leo encountered yesterday were pretty nice.

Maybe his time at Shelly Beach will make a nice story for his leopard seal mates back in Antarctica, along with all the Instagram photos of Ballina bait fish. 

INITIAL REPORT: AS Ballina Jet Boat Rescue skipper Garry Meredith says, this Antarctic leopard seal is so cute "you just want to go up and give it a big cuddle".

However, it turns out that might not be the wisest path.

The Jet Boat was called to Shelly Beach at 7am where the seal, who ended up with the name "Leo", had come ashore apparently for a bit of a sleep and was feeling a bit unhappy at the attention it was getting from the morning walkers.

"The police called us," Mr Meredith said. "They'd had a report of an angry seal and a turtle on the beach.

There was no turtle on the beach when the Jet Boat volunteers arrived and the seal appeared relatively happy, provided you kept your distance. The seal would rear up and growl at anyone who approached.

Mr Meredith said he had spoken to DPI marine expert Dr Vic Peddemors and Sea World about the seal.

He was told the animals, which as their name suggested, tended to live around Antarctica and it was rare to find them so far north.

And while you wouldn't know it to look at them, they were also surprisingly deft on land - fast enough to chase down and catch a small child.

"This one was still a juvenile. They grow a lot bigger than that," he said.

After a few hours resting on the beach, surrounded by onlookers and National Parks and Wildlife officers, who were there to make sure the onlookers kept their distance, Leo sauntered back into the ocean and swam away.

There had been some thought the seal might have been distressed, but apart from the pesky humans it seems Leo was just fine, taking a break on the beach before continuing on its way.



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