New Zealand closes highway for a month to let sea lions nest safely

(CNN) – A New Zealand council has announced a month-long road closure to allow a sea lion and its pup to reach the ocean safely.John Wilson Ocean Drive in Dunedin will be closed after New Zealand sea lions find their home on a nearby golf course and “regularly cross the street to get to the beach,” according to a Facebook post by Dunedin City Council published Monday.

“You can still visit the area on foot or by bike, but please give the sea lions plenty of space (at least 20 m),” the post continued.

“If you walk your dog in the area, please keep him on a leash as sea lions are difficult to spot.”

Dunedin is the second largest city on New Zealand’s South Island.

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Locals who commented on the post welcomed the decision and even called for it to be closed permanently.

“There shouldn’t be dogs on the beach either,” wrote Gaylene Smith. “We have to protect our beautiful seal life.”

Dogs have been known to attack sea lions, and the Chisholm Links Golf Course, where the sea lions made their home, also provided advice for dog walkers in a Facebook update.

“We are fortunate to have marine mammals on our coast and we need to share space with them as this is what makes our coastal links and the Dunedin coast so unique!” wrote the course on January 5th on Facebook.

The council went on to state that New Zealand sea lions are critically endangered and one of the rarest sea lion species in the world.

According to the Department of Conservation, there are an estimated 12,000 New Zealand sea lions left. Local law states that anyone who kills a sea lion can face a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine of up to NZ $ 250,000 (US $ 178,000).

In December 2019, a Dunedin man caused trouble after impaling a sea lion while diving.

Matt Kraemer posted on Facebook that he and his partner were diving for Paua – a type of abalone – on Friday when they came across a “particularly aggressive” sea lion with “lion-sized jaws”.

Kraemer said he stabbed the sea lion to protect his partner, but his actions were flatly condemned.

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