Are these your photos? Working USB drive found in seal poop in New Zealand

Friday, February 8, 2019

NEW ZEALAND -- A USB thumb drive has been found inside frozen leopard seal feces by marine researchers in New Zealand -- and it still works.

The stool sample, known as scat, was about the size of two bread rolls and had been kept in a freezer at the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) for over a year.

When volunteer Jodie Warren sifted through the thawed out sample several weeks ago to "get all the gross stuff out" she wasn't expecting to find an electronic device.

"It is very worrying that these amazing Antarctic animals have plastic like this inside them," Warren said in a statement.

Leopard seal feces is vital for scientists who can glean information about what the Antarctic predators eat, their general health and how long the animals may have been in New Zealand waters from the samples.

For this reason, marine biologist Krista Hupman helped to set up a volunteer leopard seal feces collection program in New Zealand. In November 2017, a vet collected the sample with the USB drive on a beach on New Zealand's south island, and sent it to the program.

Are these your holiday pictures?

When researchers plugged in the thumb drive, they discovered it featured photos and video from an unknown person's vacation.

The images show sea lions along the Catlins Coast, while video footage captures a mother sea lion and her baby frolicking alongside a person wearing red shoes in a blue kayak -- the only clues as to who might have owned the device.

If the owner recognizes their images and would like the device to be returned, there is just one small price: NIWA would like another leopard seal scat sample.

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