A seal rescued by lifeboat crew members less than three weeks ago has been found dead after being stabbed.
Gardai in Arklow, Co Wicklow are carrying out an investigation after stab wounds were spotted on the animal's body after it was washed up on Ennereilly a beach in the town.
Just 18 days earlier a major operation by the local RNLI lifeboats had saved the animal after it got caught in a fishing net 30 metres from the South Breakwater in Arklow. It swam back out to sea with just minor surface scrapes.
These marks helped identify it when the body was washed up on Monday.
The animal is thought to have been killed because various deep slash wounds were visible on its chest and back.
Detective Paul Cummiskey of Arklow Garda Station said: ''We wish to make clear that this matter will be treated very seriously.
"We were notified of the incident shortly after the dead seal was spotted by a local fisherman on Monday afternoon. The injuries could not have been accidental, so it appears that a person is responsible.'
He added that the incident has also been referred to the relevant animal welfare authorities.
Michael Fitzgerald of Arklow lifeboat station, who was involved in the original rescue of the young seal , said he was shocked to learn of such cruelty.
He added that such creatures pose no threat and that there was no logical reason for such an act to take place.
The body was buried at the beach last night after its injuries were documented to prevent health and safety issues in the area, which is frequented by swimmers and families.