In one end, out the other: USB drive survives journey through seal

In one end, out the other: USB drive survives journey through seal

In one end, out the other: USB drive survives journey through seal

During a routine scat, or poop, examination researchers at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research found something they weren't expecting in the sample from a leopard seal. It was a USB stick and Magnan wasn't impressed.

The scientific research is so valuable that Niwa marine biologist Dr Krista Hupman and the team at have a network of volunteers from around the country who collect the seal poo and send it in for analysis.

The poo can tell them what the seals eat, about their health and how long they've been in area waters.

The scat sample spent almost a year in a NIWA freezer, until it was removed by volunteers Melanie Magnan and Jodie Warren in January.

Scientists in New Zealand say they uncovered a still-functioning USB stick from some animal seal poop last month.

After defrosting a poo sample, they "basically have to sift it", explains Warren.

Warren left the stick to dry for weeks, curious to see if any data could be recovered.

"If they're yours and you want the USB stick back, it comes with a price", the group stated. In a video, someone in a kayak follows a seal and her pup swimming in shallow water.

"It is very worrying that these unbelievable Antarctic animals have plastic like this inside them", said Warren.

This particular scat had been collected by a local vet checking on the health of a skinny leopard seal resting on Oreti Beach, Invercargill.

NIWA has tut-tutted about the fact plastics found their way into both the environment and a seal, but also offered to return the USB to its owner if they help out by collecting more post-digestive residue from seals to assist further research.

The seal poop was actually picked up back in November 2017, when a local veterinarian was investigating the health of a leopard seal on the island's Porpoise Bay.

The only clue they have about the owners of the photo and video lies in one of the pieces of footage found in the USB device, showing they were on a blue kayak.

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