The bodies of six decapitated fur seal pups have been discovered in the waters off New Zealand’s South Island, the BBC reports. The country’s Department of Conservation is calling the incident “cruel and senseless.” A tour operator reportedly found the bodies on Monday. The animals’ heads were not located; authorities believe the pups, estimated to be about 11 months old, were killed somewhere else and dumped from a boat. “We believe it's incredibly unlikely sharks would have bitten the heads off six seals but left the bodies untouched," says Andy Thompson of the DoC, the Telegraph reports, adding that the incident has been reported to police.
Under New Zealand’s Marine Mammals Protection Act, per the BBC, it’s illegal to harass or harm fur seals. And, according to the Telegraph, a teen spent two years in jail for beating 25 seals to death in 2011. Thompson speculates that whomever killed the seals may have believed the animals were competing for desirable fish. But that’s a misconception, he says. “Research shows 90 percent of Banks Peninsula fur seal diet is made up of lantern fish which are not sought after in fishing." (200 whales died in a week.)