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Scientists seek owner of USB stick stuck in seal poo

If you lost your USB stick down the jaws of a leopard seal in New Zealand, then this might be yours.

Did you take this picture of a sea lion rolling in the sand?


The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand knows the value of leopard seal poop. Volunteers gather it and scientists examine it to learn more about seal health, behavior and diets. 

NIWA discovered a USB stick among the bones, feathers and seaweed in a slab of poo "the size of two bread rolls." The organization would like to find the owner.

Here are a few details that might help you figure out if it's yours. A volunteer collected the scat in November 2017 and sent it to NIWA, where it remained frozen until January 2019. Images and video show sea lions at Porpoise Bay in the Catlins. 

NIWA put out the call to find the owner on Monday and posted footage from the memory stick showing the nose of a blue kayak.

NIWA is willing to give the USB stick back to its original owner, but only in exchange for some volunteer work collecting more leopard seal scat. 

Don't fret. You'll get instructions on how to do it. It involves wearing gloves, carrying an ice cream container and properly identifying the poo, which looks like "thick puddles in varying colors."

NIWA is studying leopard seals to find out if they're becoming more common in New Zealand. The poo-collecting volunteers are part of a Leopard Seals group advocating for more research and better protections for the marine animals. 

While there's a humorous aspect to this story, it's also cause for concern. 

"It is very worrying that these amazing Antarctic animals have plastic like this inside them," says NIWA volunteer Jodie Warren, who helped sift the scat with the stick inside.