For some New Zealanders, the commute along John Wilson Drive might get diverted after the Dunedin City Council made the announcement last week that they’d be shutting down a section of the road that is between the Dunedin golf course and the Pacific Ocean.
The reason for the closure? A mama sea lion just had her pup and the city council wants to ensure the safety of both mom and baby.
As the city council explained on Facebook:
“We’ve closed John Wilson Ocean Drive to vehicles for the next month to allow some special residents to use the road safely. A New Zealand sea lion and her pup have taken up residence at the golf course next door and are regularly crossing the road to get to the beach.”
The golf course also shared a post, showing photos of the mama sea lion on the course.
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The council further added that visitors can still access the area through bicycle or on foot but cautioned that the mama and her pup should be given plenty of space – at least 20 meters.
As Jim Fyfe, a biodiversity ranger for the Department of Conservation’s coastal Otago, explained to the New Zealand Herald, the mother sea lion had given birth in the bushes that were located on the golf course. The DoC has named the mama sea lion Hiriwa. Fyfe himself even added that he had personally retrieved the placenta and tossed it over the side of the cliff so that it wouldn’t attract dogs.
Hiriwa and her little newborn were first spotted almost two weeks ago hanging out by the bushes beside the 13th hole. The DoC experts fully anticipate her making frequent trips to the ocean in order to hunt, and this trek will mean she’s going to have to cross the John Wilson Ocean Drive road.
After speaking with the city council, approval was granted to close the road for a month in order to allow the mama and her pup to safely exist on land before they make their return to the sea.
Fyfe has been adamant that golfers give both the mom and her pup plenty of space while golfing, requesting that they be “mindful that they’re there and don’t hit golf balls in their direction.”
Fyfe revealed that he’s perhaps most worried about dogs and their owner walking around the golf course, saying, “They might not be expecting to see a sea lion pup turn up out of the woodwork.”
Because of this, the city council was very insistent in their Facebook post that all dog owners keep their dogs on a leash when visiting the area because “New Zealand sea lions are endangered and one of the rarest sea lion species in the world.”
But a big congratulations to Hiriwa on her new little pup!Whizzco