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Cornwall’s New Seal Hospital

By December 10, 2021No Comments
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In September 2021 a new purpose-built hospital was opened in Cornwall for ill and injured grey seal pups. This facility has been built by the charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) to accommodate the ever-increasing numbers of seal pups needing rescued throughout the autumn and winter months around Cornwall.

In the Southwest of England, there are two rehabilitation centres for grey seal pups – the Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek and RSPCA West Hatch in Somerset. However, over the last few years, these facilities have become overwhelmed with pups being admitted due to increasing severity and numbers of storms hitting our coast at the same time of year the grey seals give birth to their young. Another factor could be human disturbance at important pupping sites, also causing the pups to become separated from their mothers too soon.

Grey seal mothers only stay with their pups for 3 weeks; during which time the pup needs every feed of their mother’s milk to fatten up enough to survive on their own. If they become separated too early, this can be fatal for the vulnerable young seal, so the charity are often called to reports of seals who are underweight and struggling or injured in storms, needing a helping hand to survive.

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A wild grey seal pup getting a vital feed of milk from its mother

For many years BDMLR have supported the Southwest’s seal rehab facilities by offering (what was supposed to be) overnight care at a very simple makeshift seal treatment unit. However, as the seal rescue centres have become busier, the volunteers of BDMLR have been depended on more and more, with their small seal care facility not being enough; leaving some volunteers even looking after seals at their own property! Many seals could even be in the care of volunteers for up to 3 weeks before a space opens up at a rehabilitation facility, so the time had come to build something much more suitable to give these poorly seals the care that they need.

The new seal hospital has opened in mid Cornwall with a total of 10 pens as well as specialist veterinary equipment to provide the pups with the best possible care before they are moved on to the next stage of the rehabilitation process, until they are ready to be released back out to the wild. The hospital will also be used as a national training hub for the charity to allow other volunteers around the country the opportunity to learn more about the hands-on care of wild seals. However, unlike the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek, this centre will not open to the public

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Woody Woodpecker, one of the hospital’s first patients

The facility was funded by donations through a Crowdfunding campaign as well as grants from various trusts. However, the seal hospital are keeping their fundraising efforts going to help with the ongoing costs of running the unit, including water and electric bills, veterinary treatment and, of course, lots of fish! If you would like to support the seal hospital then visit their fundraiser here;

Or you can buy the seals a Christmas present from their wish list here.

If you ever see a seal pup on the beach and have any concerns, always remember the following:

  • Stay well back and give the seal lots of space (mum might still be nearby)
  • Keep dogs on their leads
  • DO NOT put the pup back in the sea – it needs to rest on land!
  • Call BDMLR on 01825 765546

By Jenny Simpson

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