First Seal Pups of the Season are Rescued in Scotland

Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Uckfield, East Sussex, UK
The first rescued seal pups of the season have been brought in to a seal rehabilitation unit near John O'Groats in the far north of Scotland.

The first pup was found on a busy beach near a caravan park in the Dornoch Firth. A marine mammal medic from British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR – www.bdmlr.org.uk ) responded to a call from the coastguard and went out to check on her and he was soon joined by an SSPCA officer. After sending images by mobile phone to the seal hospital to assess her condition it was agreed that she should be brought in.

The pup was driven two hours north to the seal unit where a pen had already been prepared for her. On arrival she was weighed at 8 kilos and put in a pen to cool down as it had been a very warm trip.

The initial vet check revealed that the pup was a female common or harbor seal of about two days old bearing signs that the umbilical cord had only recently been detached. She had no obvious injuries but was slightly dehydrated and her stomach was empty. Her teeth were just starting to come through at the front of her mouth.

The pup has been christened Freddy after Fred O’Regan, CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare
(IFAW– www.ifaw.org ). The group has contributed generously to the setting up and running costs of the seal rehabilitation unit.

Alan Knight, Chairman of BDMLR, said: “This little seal is likely to be the first of a number of stranded or abandoned pups that need our help in the coming weeks and months. If it wasn’t for IFAW’s support for the rehabilitation unit, we wouldn’t be able to rescue these animals in distress and give them the care they need before returning them to the wild.”

There has been a sharp decline in the number of harbor seals around the British coastline. Between 2000 and 2007 the number found around the coast of Scotland and England declined by 56 per cent from 36,345 to 23,277.

The decline gives serious cause for concern: the harbor seal is protected under the EU Habitats directive and Scotland and the UK has a special responsibility to protect it. As one of the UK’s most popular marine mammals, the harbor seal is a great tourist attraction – a source of revenue that parts of Scotland are depending on more and more.

A second pup was brought into the unit on the same day that Freddy was admitted. It was also a female a few days older but much thinner and suffering from an eye infection. Once the blood test and the eye infection are clear both pups will be put together in one pen which will assist with their mental and physical development.

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