TWO female seals, who have received weeks of treatment at RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre near Taunton after being found as malnourished pups, were yesterday back in the sea in Wales.
Poplin and Cashmere were severely malnourished, weighing just 12 and 10 kilograms respectively, when they were picked up at around eight-weeks-old at Martin’s Haven and Pwlldu Bay beaches in October and November. A healthy female seal pup of that age normally weighs about 40kg.
The pair were transferred to the RSPCA specialist wildlife centre in Somerset where they received weeks of specialist care.
Yesterday, RSPCA animal rescue officer Ellie West drove down to West Hatch to collect them, before the pair – who have both been tagged – were released into the waters off the Gower Peninsula at first light.
Ellie said: “Being able to release these seals back into the wild has definitely been an early Christmas present for me. Cashmere and Poplin were very underweight when they were picked up, but the staff at West Hatch have done a fantastic job over many weeks.
“Once they started feeding by themselves again they progressed really well, and they both now weigh over 50kg. Seal rescue is labour intensive, but being able to successfully rehabilitate these beautiful creatures and get them back into the wild where they belong is one of the best parts of the job for me.
“It’s been a real team effort, and I’m delighted they’re home for Christmas.”
All seals at RSPCA West Hatch this season have been named after different types of material.
Although fully weaned when she was found, Cashmere was skinny and suffering from a respiratory infection which required many weeks of treatment.
Poplin – also weaned – was originally picked up by Milford Haven-based Welsh Marine Life Rescue before being transferred into the care of the RSPCA. Like Cashmere, she was severely underweight and also suffering from several wounds.
How to help
An RSPCA spokesperson said: “If you are concerned about a seal, observe from a distance. Please keep other animals, such as dogs, away from the animal, and never return the seal to the water yourself.
“Sick seal pups haul up onto the beach to rest – but so do healthy pups who will stay on the beach from birth till they wean.
“If you have observed the seal for at least 24 hours and are concerned about it please contact the RSPCA for advice on 0300 1234 999.
“If you are worried about a pup or if the pup looks sick or injured, or is on a busy public beach, stay at a safe distance and also contact the RSPCA’s emergency line.”
To find more advice about what to do if you see a seal pup on its own visit: www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife/orphanedanimals/sealpups