Help us keep Neil the Seal safe

​Tasmania’s favourite southern elephant seal has returned safely to the state’s shore, and Marine Conservation Program (MCP) wildlife biologists want your help keeping him safe. 

Neil, as he was nicknamed by the Tasmanian community, was born on the Tasman Peninsula in October 2020. After feeding from his mother for 20 days and tripling his birth weight, mum went back to sea and Neil ventured into the wild to make his own life.

“We want to see his life continue to stay wild. It’s normal for seals to come ashore to rest and moult after long trips at sea to forage and it’s important that seals are left alone to do that,” Marine Conservation Program wildlife biologist Dr Kris Carlyon said.

“Although we understand the temptation to visit Neil, we are asking all members of the public to stay away. Wild animals are unpredictable and could be dangerous if harassed.” 

Anyone with concerns about the seal can call the marine mammal hotline on 0427 942 537 (0427 WHALES).


While southern elephant seals have traditionally been visitors to mainland Tasmania, mainly from the nearest breeding colony on Macquarie Island, Neil has returned to rest or moult several times in the past few years. 

In April 2023, during one of these ashore periods, unfortunately despite requests to the public to keep their distance people continued to gather close to Neil, bringing dogs to the area, and MCP received reports of harassment resulting in the need to relocate Neil.

During the relocation, Neil was sedated and MCP staff were able to deploy a satellite tracker allowing his movements to be monitored. 

“The tracker enabled us to manage his safety ashore as he moved around and upon his return to sea, to identify his foraging behaviour, location and duration,” Dr Carlyon said.  

“Although the tracking provides valuable information, sedation of a large seal comes with risks to both the animal and responders, so this procedure is only undertaken as a last resort.”

Following his relocation, Neil spent six months at sea, foraging over 1600km to the South-West of Tasmania. 

Elephant seals​​

“Elephant seals are phenomenal divers spending 90 per cent of their time at sea diving to feed on squid and fish, with adults capable of diving to greater than 1500 metres and diving for up to two hours,” Dr Carlyon said.  

“The foraging range for male elephant seals continues to expand as they grow to maturity, and it may be that Neil encounters Macquarie Island, where it is likely that he may remain. However, if he continues to forage off the South-West of Tasmania, he is unlikely to encounter other populations and will continue to return to Tasmanian shores twice per year, once to moult his skin and fur and once seeking to breed.” 

Over the next couple of years, Neil will grow to 5 meters in length and about 3500kg in weight. Wildlife management of large powerful animals requires the public to maintain distance and respect for these animals and that interactions do not alter their wild behaviours. 

“Tasmania is incredibly lucky to have an endangered elephant seal choose to haul out regularly on our shores, allowing people to get a rare glimpse of these amazing animals without having to travel to their sub-Antarctic stronghold and providing the public with opportunities for learning and appreciation,” Dr Carlyon said.  

“However, the logistic challenges of managing human interactions are not insignificant and, if Neil is to remain protected, Tasmanians also have a responsibility to act respectfully and sensitively.

“In light of Neil’s social media popularity, resulting in overwhelming numbers of people flocking to see and photograph this seal, it is important to stress that our natural interest in rare wildlife sightings and desire for interaction can lead to negative outcomes for wildlife.” ​

Neil the seal looking sleepy lying on dry coastal swamp