Scientists track down owner of seal faeces USB stick

Revealed: Mystery wildlife enthusiast whose USB stick full of pictures was EATEN by a seal and discovered in its DUNG comes forward after spotting her snaps on the news

  • The USB stick was still working and contained someone’s holiday photos
  • But it belonged to the woman who alerted authorities of the sick seal
  • The scientists took the faeces to the lab to examine it and found the USB
  • It was frozen for a year before being thawed out for analysis 
  • Inside the faeces was a working USB stick which contained the footage 
  • It had filmed sea lions playing as well as a person kayaking through a lake  
  • e-mail

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The NIWA have confirmed that the USB stick belongs to Amanda Nally – who suggested the faeces should be sent away to be analysed

The owner of a USB stick which was found in a sick seal’s faeces has been identified – as the woman who reported the frail animal to authorities in the first place.

It follows a nationwide search for the owner of the memory stick, revealed to be a seal enthusiast named Amanda Nally, after finding that it still worked. 

Ms Nally spotted the leopard seal looking thin and perhaps ill near a slab of its faeces on Oreti beach in New Zealand while volunteering in December 2017.

A vet was dispatched to examine the rare animal, which is usually found in the Antarctic and spend most of their lives submerged.

When the vet arrived, Ms Nally suggested that the sample be sent for analysis because it holds valuable information about their general health.

That same day she posted a picture of the frail seal on her Instagram account with the caption: Today #leopardseal #hungry #summervisitor #oretibeach #vetchecked.

The seal was deemed in reasonable health and his faecal matter was sent to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). 

Last week, the facility reported that they had found the functioning USB stick while studying the frozen sample one year later. 


 That same day she posted a picture of the frail seal on her Instagram account with the caption: Today #leopardseal #hungry #summervisitor #oretibeach #vetchecked


The seal was deemed in reasonable health and his faecal matter was sent to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Last week, the facility reported that they had found the functioning USB stick while studying the frozen sample one year later

The organisation appealed for the owner of the USB to contact them, broadcasting holiday pictures and footage of two sea lions pups that were saved in it.

Ms Nally was watching the nightly news when she immediately recognised the clips as ones she had taken and realised that the stick was hers.

‘This is probably the weirdest set of coincidences in my life – ever,’ Ms Nally said. 

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The NIWA tweeted that the owner of the memory stick, which Ms Nally thought had been lost, had been located.  

It is not known whether the USB stick eaten by the seal caused it to become ill.

According to an NIWA statement announcing the find last week, a ‘skinny’ leopard seal was seen on the beach and a scat sample was collected and sent it to NIWA marine biologist Dr Krista Hupman. 


The owner of a USB stick which was found in a sick seal’s faeces has been identified – as the woman who reported the frail animal to authorities in the first place. Amanda Nally was watching the news when footage she had filmed from her memory stick was broadcast

The scat, which they studied to learn more about the health of leopard seals, was stored in a freezer for a year before it was thawed out, the researchers said. 

On making the remarkable find that the USB stick was still working, they put out a call to find the owner by releasing the clips and pictures which were on it.

One video from the cache appears to have been filmed by someone in a blue canoe or kayak, as a mother and baby sea lion swim on the water. 

An NIWA volunteer said at the time: ‘We basically have to sift it. You put it under the cold tap, get all the gross stuff off, smoosh it around a bit and separate the bones, feathers, seaweed and other stuff.’


Ms Nally suggested that the sample be sent for analysis because it holds valuable information about the leopard seal’s general health. The animal is usually found in Antarctic waters so the faeces would be valuable to find out why or how long they’ve been in New Zealand waters


One video from the cache appears to have been filmed by someone in a blue canoe or kayak, as a mother and baby sealion swim and leap in the water. Representatives think that a bird had eaten the Ms Nally’s stick, the seal then ate the bird, causing it to be embedded in its faeces


According to an NIWA statement announcing the find last week, a ‘skinny’ leopard seal was seen on the beach and a scat sample was collected and sent it to NIWA marine biologist Dr Krista Hupman. Here, footage from Ms. Nally’s USB

It was while undergoing this sorting process that the team found something ‘large and hard’. After leaving the stick to dry out for a few weeks, the team discovered the files which may help to find the owner. 

Representatives think that a bird had eaten the stick, the seal then ate the bird, causing it to be deeply embedded in its faeces. 

Leopard seals are the second biggest seal species in the Antarctic, after the elephant seal, known for their spotted fur.

Growing up to 11 feet with inch-long canine teeth, the leopard seal’s only natural predator is thought to be the killer whale. 

The NIWA team said at the time that they were happy to return the USB stick to its owner but on one condition; they would like some more leopard seal scat. 

But, Ms Nally told the Guardian that she had informed NIWA they could keep the USB stick as she had the footage backed up in various places. 

WHAT IS A LEOPARD SEAL?


The leopard seal usually live live in frigid Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters. They spend much of their lives submerged

The leopard seal is named for its black-spotted coat. The pattern is similar to that of the famous big cat, though the seal’s coat is gray rather than golden in colour. 

They are the most formidable hunters of all the seals and the only ones that feed on warm-blooded prey, such as other seals. 

Leopard seals use their powerful jaws and long teeth to kill smaller seals, fish, and squid. 

Growing up to 11 feet with inch-long canine teeth, the leopard seal’s only natural predator is thought to be the killer whale. 

Leopard seals use their powerful jaws and long teeth to kill smaller seals, fish, and squid.

These effective predators live in frigid Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters

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