NEWS

Viral sensation Neil the Seal given secret new home

The antics of this cheeky seal have been viewed millions of times on social media across the world.
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Neil the Seal has been sent into witness protection following intense public interest in his hilarious onshore antics.

The three-year-old elephant seal, lovingly dubbed ‘Neil’, was relocated to an unknown location in May as local conservationists worked to ensure his safety.

Having caused mischief among the Dunalley community on Tasmania’s south coast – such as chewing traffic cones, burrowing into homes, and blocking driveways – Neil’s playful tricks have made him a social media sensation with an international following.

neil the seal
Neil had a satellite tracker fitted. (Credit: Instagram)

Hobart-based wildlife biologist Dr Kris Carlyon warns this popularity could also unfortunately prove to be Neil’s downfall.

“There is a risk of essentially loving Neil to death,” Dr Carlyon said.

“We have seen various examples where these large, charismatic animals have hauled out [of the ocean] in places that are pretty unusual … and we’ve seen people seeking [them] out.

“That’s come with the inevitable animal welfare and safety risks, and in some situations, the authorities have had to euthanise those animals to mitigate those risks.

“That’s the last thing we want to happen here.”

neil the seal
He appears to love chewing and grabbing traffic cones. (Credit: Instagram)

Tasmania’s Marine Conservation Program (MCP) isn’t sharing Neil’s whereabouts. They have assured the public he was not sedated (which can be dangerous for certain animals) during his current period ashore.

“We want to see his life continue to stay wild,” Dr Carlyon said.

“It’s important to stress that our natural interest in rare wildlife sightings and desire for interaction can lead to negative outcomes for wildlife.”

Calling him “cheeky” and like a “young teenager”, locals say Neil has been causing chaos since he first arrived in July 2022.

“He’s stopped us going from work by laying behind the cars,” a surf coach told A Current Affair. “He’s also parked himself out the front there for a few days and caused a big scene.”

neil the seal
The local celebrity was being “loved to death”, hence his relocation. (Credit: Instagram)

Neil was born on the Tasman Peninsula in October 2020. He weighs 700 kilograms and is three metres long. It’s expected he’ll grow to about 3500 kilograms in a few years’ time.

Like other elephant seals, Neil spends six months at sea, foraging for squid and fish, before returning to shore to rest and moult fur. However, unlike others, experts say Neil is alone and bored.

In April 2023, the MCP received reports of people harassing Neil and bringing dogs to the area.

“It got to a point where we had to move him away from all that attention,” Dr Carlyon said.

The MCP is now urging people not to share Neil’s location on social media if they come across him.

As for the people of Dunalley, will their favourite local celebrity return to run amuck?

Only time will tell…

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