Most pet owners know that one of the best ways to check up on the health of our furkids is keeping an eye on their poo, so it’s not so surprising that researchers at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research do the same to keep tabs on their population of leopard seals. Studying their droppings can help scientists learn about what food they eat, what locations they’ve visited, and their other daily habits, as well as their health.
I’m pretty sure, however, that the researchers never expected to find someone’s nature footage in one of the stinky – or, in this case, frozen – piles. The clever scientists at the Institute get volunteers to sift through the lumps of waste, about the size of two bread rolls, to rid the samples of anything irrelevant. In this case, volunteer Jodie Warren (who must really love leopard seals to be doing this sort of thing without pay) unearthed a USB drive.
After cleaning, it was found to be in perfect working order and – to the researchers’ delight – the drive contained some beautiful pictures of the New Zealand outdoors, including a video of the owner observing a mother sea lion and her baby splashing around next to her a kayak.
The all-powerful internet and its incomprehensible reach delivered the owner of the USB within days. Truly, what a world we live in, people.
Amanda Nally, a leopard seal volunteer on New Zealand’s coast, recognized the footage right away. She’d found a sick sea lion on the shore in 2017 and stopped to help it – she figured she must have dropped the drive in a pile of poop that eventually made its way to the National Institute’s freezers.
But the Institute’s biologists have a different, even crazier theory about how the USB found its way into that particular pile of poop.
The frozen stool was riddled with feathers, suggesting the seal had ingested a bird. They believe that it’s most likely that a bird stole and ate Amanda’s USB drive and then became a meal for a local leopard seal soon afterward.
So, it’s only by sheer luck (I guess?) that the USB made it back to the Institute for examination at all.
Now, that’s some crappy karma.