If you happen to have lost a USB drive containing photos of seals in the approximate area of Invercargill, New Zealand some time around 2017, I have some fantastic news for you: it has passed through the digestive system of a leopard seal, been frozen, then unfrozen, and then ultimately found by researchers.
According to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, the drive was found after some seal poo that was collected in November 2017 was defrosted and then sifted through by volunteers Jodie Warren and Melanie Magnan. This might seem like slightly weird behaviour, but going through the seal poo allows researchers to get a good look at the diets, health, and likely past whereabouts of the seal that did the business.
After discovering the drive, which seemed to still be intact, they let it dry out for a while, then popped it in to a computer to see what was on it. Lo and behold, it contained photos and videos of seals:
NIWA is searching for the owner of a USB stick found in the poo of a leopard seal…
Recognise this video? Scientists analysing the scat of leopard seals have come across an unexpected discovery – a USB stick full of photos & still in working order! https://t.co/2SZVkm5az4 pic.twitter.com/JLEC8vuHH0
— NIWA (@niwa_nz) February 5, 2019
The NIWA are keen to get it back to the owners, if they can, but they have a price: bring in some seal poo:
If they’re yours and you want the USB stick back, it comes with a price. The leopard seal researchers would like some more leopard seal scat please. . . . There is information at www.leopardseals.org on what the scat looks like (thick puddles in varying colours), how to collect it (gloves and an ice cream container!), and how to say safe (keep at least 20m away from the animals).
Fair enough I guess.