The first batch of the tidal orphan seal pups were released back into the wild yesterday (February 26) following weeks of rehabilitation by the RSPCA.
A total of eight pups were released back to the sea at Winterton on Sea, Norfolk – to the delight of staff and volunteers at the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre, who have been caring for 100 pups since December following one of the biggest rescue projects the charity has ever seen.
The seal pups, some just a few weeks old had washed up along the shore following violent storms and they were too young to survive without their mothers. Scores of pups were rescued by RSPCA officers and taken to the specialist RSPCA hospital in Norfolk.
This was just the start of an epic rehabilitation program, which involved round the clock supervision for the youngsters. After December 5, a total of 101 greys were brought in to the centre – many of which were in need of intensive care and hand feeding, which was as frequent as every four hours during the first few weeks.
Centre manager Alison Charles said: “This has been an extremely hard time for all the staff and volunteers – just coping with the sheer number of seals. This is the biggest rescue program we have ever had to deal with in the 25 year history of the centre.
“We had to completely juggle the whole centre to make room for so many extra seals. Straight after the surge we had a staggering 58 pups come in and we were already caring for 50 others… and after that they still continued to come in.
“We had seals in every suitable room, in all the 17 cubicles in isolation, the box room, the orphan bird room and the hedgehog room. Fortunately all the rooms have under floor heating and tiled floors and drains so this helped with the cleaning – as seal pubs can be messy.”
Following December’s influx, the RSPCA launched a crisis appeal which received “a fantastic response” by the public to help cover the estimated £22 per week needed to feed each seal during their rehabilitation – which for some could be needed for up to five months.
Alison added: “We have been truly overwhelmed by the public’s response and generosity. We have spent the money on fish, medication, stomach tubing and a new industrial liquidiser. The money still continues to help those seals in our care.”
Although this is the first batch of seals to be released there are still scores at the centre – there are 30 seals still in the isolation units, 16 in the intermediate pools, 17 in the swan pools and 15 in the courtyard pools. There are also six pups at the RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre and Welsh Mountain Zoo.
- To help the seals that are still being rehabilitated, visit choices.rspca.org.uk/seal-appeal