First seal pups arrive at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary as new season kicks off
Wednesday, 23 August 2023
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary has seen an early start to the rescue season with the arrival of two pups, including a common seal – the first to arrive at the charity since 2019.
The first pup, a grey seal dubbed ‘Sienna Miller’, was rescued on Friday afternoon (18th August), after she was found separated from her mother on a beach near Perranporth.
Volunteer medics from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) were first alerted to her the day before. However, with a busy beach full of beachgoers, it was difficult for the pup’s mum to return.
The team made every effort to keep people and dogs away to give the pup the best chance possible, monitoring the pup till late in the evening. By the morning, though, the pup had swum to another busy beach making the chances of being reunited with mum very slim.
The decision was made to bring the pup in for its own safety, and she was transferred to Head & Head Vets in Helston, where they found small wounds to her flippers and a lung infection. At just a couple of days old, she was quickly transferred into the care of the Cornish Seal Sanctuary to undergo rehabilitation, with the aim of returning her back to the wild.
Elliot Badrick, senior animal care specialist for the Sanctuary, says: “It’s hard for the pups at this time of year – our beaches are still busy, which means human disturbance is a huge risk, and we’re likely to see more pups coming in for this reason.
“Young grey seal pups like Sienna, who still have their white coats, are much more vulnerable, too, which means we have to take extra precautions in our hospital to ensure they aren’t stressed and get all the rest they need to put on weight for a healthy recovery.”
The second pup, a common seal weighing just 8.9kg, was found on Saturday (19th August) at Mawgan Porth. Named ‘Hugh Grant, in line with the charity’s celebrity theme for the 23/24 season, he was completely malnourished, with swelling around his muzzle and a large ulcer in his right eye.
Elliot adds: “It’s been some time since we last took in a common seal. Despite their name, they’re not very common around the Cornish coastline, and they’re much smaller than those from our grey seal population.
“However, Hugh Grant is bright and active, and we’re hopeful we can help him successfully through the rehabilitation process and get him back out to where he’s supposed to be.”
The pups are now being cared for in the sanctuary’s Seal Hospital, with regular night feeds and continuous monitoring until they can reach full health and return to the wild.
On average, it costs around £2,000 to rescue and rehabilitate a seal for release, which is funded entirely by donations and visits to the charity’s site in Gweek, Helston.
Last year saw a busy pup season in Cornwall, with the sanctuary taking in more than 50 pups through autumn 2022 and spring 2023.
Rescued from various spots around the Cornish coastline, each pup is monitored and treated in the Seal Hospital, before being moved into the rehabilitation pools for ongoing support before heading back into the wild.
What to do if you find a pup on the beach
The charity is now reminding locals and visitors alike that disturbance can be a real issue for pups on the beach, often leading to abandonment by their mums, which can be fatal.
Those who do see a pup on the beach are advised to keep dogs on leads and children away, and not to approach or chase the seal back into the sea.
If you believe the pup is in distress or needs medical attention, you can find the signs to look out for and what to do next. You can also call the Cornish Seal Sanctuary directly on 01326 221361 or British Divers Marine Life Rescue on 01825 765546 for more help and advice.
To find out more about the Cornish Seal Sanctuary and its mission, click here.