When it comes to disrupting ecosystems, there are probably fewer animals who do it better than human beings. We've pushed tons of animals out of their homes and they don't seem too keen on interacting with us. Case in point: the influx of animals who've decided to come out of hiding during COVID-19 lockdowns: there were dolphins swimming in Venice for crying out loud!
This could be why so many people are applauding this New Zealand city council's decision to shut a road down for so long so a new seal mother could care for her pup.
Hiriwa (the sea lion's name) decided to choose the Chisholm Links golf course and country club in Dunedin, New Zealand to give birth.
Jim Fyfe, Department of Conservation coastal Otago biodiversity ranger, told the New Zealand Herald, "She has come up John Wilson Drive and into the golf course to have her pup in some bushes there."
Fyfe, so as not to attract any dogs to the golf course, threw the seal mom's placenta over a cliff.
The seal pup will stay at the golf course while Hiriwa takes care of her, but the mom still needs access to the ocean.
So the Dunedin City Council decided to keep the road closed for a month to ensure Hiriwa could cross the road without any troublesome vehicles threatening the life of her and her baby.
"We've closed John Wilson Ocean Drive to vehicles for the next month to allow some special residents to use the road safely," the council posted on its official Facebook page.
The council urged folks to keep at least a 20-meter distance from Hiriwa and her new baby while walking on the road, as it's still open to pedestrian traffic and cyclists.
While it might seem like the city is going through a lot of trouble for a single sea lion and her baby, it's important to note that New Zealand sea lions are some of the rarest species of their kind in the entire world, and they're on the endangered species list.
Sea lions usually breed during the summer and then pups are often born at the beginning of December up until about the second week of January or so.
Hiriwa's baby was born on the "breeding beach", but at around 6 weeks of age, they will be moved to a patch of vegetation for protection. The mother will then alternate between feeding her baby and venturing out into the sea to forage.
We’ve closed John Wilson Ocean Drive to cars for a month to help a sea lion and her pup cross the road safely. They've made a home at the golf course and mum is crossing the road to get to the beach. You can still visit by foot or bike, but stay 20m away and keep dogs on lead. pic.twitter.com/y1MkiRWXi0— Dunedin City Council (@DnCityCouncil) January 11, 2021
For the entire first year of a baby seal's life, they are entirely dependent on their mother for both protection and food. They're left alone while their mother is away during this time, and while this is the first seal baby that Chisholm Links has ever had on its course, many believe that the pup has a pretty safe spot to grow up in, along with tons of folks who are more than willing to keep an eye out for it.
It's hard to imagine any predators would want to sniff about the bushes that Hiriwa's baby is nesting in when there are golf carts zipping by and people with clubs around every corner. There's also the threat of being bored to death by watching too many golf games.