Cornish Seal Sanctuary

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Cornish Seal Sanctuary
Cornish Seal Sanctuary

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary, owned by The Sea Life Trust, serves as a haven for injured seal pups. Located alongside the Helford River in Cornwall, England, UK, near the village of Gweek.

In 1958, the founder, Ken Jones, stumbled upon a stranded baby seal on the shores near his home in St Agnes. This marked the beginning of numerous rescue operations. As the scope of their work expanded, a single pool at St Agnes could no longer accommodate their efforts. In 1975, they discovered a new site in Gweek, where the sanctuary gradually flourished. Today, it has five pools and a purpose-built hospital.

On average, the sanctuary cares for sixty to seventy seal pups, with over eighty rescued from the wild in 2018 alone. These young seals are usually rescued due to separation from their mothers, rendering them unable to feed, or because they have become entangled in marine debris. The primary goal is to rehabilitate them, providing the best chance for survival in their natural habitat.

Typically, the rescue process commences with a report of an apparently abandoned pup. If the rescue team determines that the pup is in peril, it is captured and brought to the sanctuary. Upon arrival, a comprehensive medical assessment is conducted, guiding the subsequent course of treatment. Many of the pups suffer from malnutrition and infected wounds. As the seal begins to recover and gain weight, it is relocated to a convalescence pool, where it interacts with other recovering and resident seals, acquiring vital skills in food competition. After a few months, when the seal has reached a healthy weight and regained full health, it is released into the sea, ideally close to its original discovery location. Before release, each seal is tagged with a flipper tag and, more recently, a hat tag that falls off during the first molt. These tags provide valuable data on the survival rate of the rescued seals.

The sanctuary boasts an impressive record, aiming to rehabilitate all rescued pups. From 1981 to 2013, only four seals were deemed unlikely to survive in the wild and became permanent residents of the sanctuary. These long-term residents include seals unable to thrive in the wild due to health concerns or extended periods in captivity. Some of these resident seals share pools with the rescue pups, aiding during feeding times by demonstrating the best strategies for acquiring food.

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