Man fined after taking venomous sea snake from Manawatū beach

Source: 1News

A Palmerston North man has been fined after removing a venomous sea snake from a Manawatū beach then sharing footage of it on TikTok.

File image: A yellow-bellied sea snake.

Alex Gordon-Stables and two friends discovered the yellow-bellied sea snake at Tangimoana Beach in Manawatū in April 2021.

The snake's venom has the potential to kill small children and can cause vomiting and paralysis in adults who are bitten. There is no anti-venom in New Zealand.

The Department of Conservation says that rather than returning the snake to the sea, Gordon-Stables put it in a plastic bag and travelled to a nearby store to buy a box to put it in.

After visiting the store, Gordon-Stables took it to a house nearby and called the Department of Conservation, where he was urged to return the snake to the sea.

However, he instead took the snake with him to Palmerston North, where it died along the way.

DOC were alerted to what had happened after videos of it were shared on TikTok.

In an interview with a DOC compliance officer, Gordon-Stables said he had taken the snake from the beach because he thought it would bite someone, however, he admitting sharing videos of it on TikTok to get likes for his content.

"Had he followed the very clear advice from DOC, and not boasted about his find on TikTok, we would not have pursued this prosecution," DOC's principal compliance officer Dylan Swain said.

“This incident could have resulted in a horrible series of events for the people involved. The snake could have bitten one of them – and with no anti-venom in New Zealand, it could have been extremely painful and dangerous.”

Gordon-Stables pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful possession of wildlife and was ordered to pay $500 to the Save the Kiwi charity, $250 in court costs, and 50 hours of community service.

Swain said the case and sentence serve as a clear reminder to the community to leave native wildlife they encounter alone.