A seal pup who was rescued by the RSPCA after being orphaned at just 10 days old has started a new life at sea after being released back into the wild.
The pup was weak and lethargic when he was rescued on 30 September on Penrhyn Beach, in Llandudno, North Wales, after he was seen alone and without his mother for at least three days.
He was taken to the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, in Nantwich, Cheshire, where staff named him Jon Snow after the Game of Thrones character.
Jon began a five-month rehabilitation process to ensure he would be strong enough to be released back into the wild.
He became a popular patient amongst staff at Stapeley Grange, and for his first few weeks he was always suckling on a towel in his cubicle, and staff ensured that he was never without one.
As he started to lost his pup fur and his teeth started to grow, Jon was moved into a pool with Jamie so he could socialise and get used to being in water.
On Tuesday (20 February), Jon returned to the sea for the first time since he was just days old. Three wildlife assistants from Stapeley Grange travelled to Colwyn Bay to release Jon and two other orphaned seals named Jamie and Ned.
Michelle Bite, one of the wildlife assistants who released Jon, Jamie and Ned, said: “We went to the promenade in Colwyn Bay, where we found a suitable spot for them to be returned to the sea.
“Jon and Jamie were super speedy, I’ve never seen seals move so fast – they couldn’t wait to get into the sea. Ned was more reluctant but was soon to follow.
“Once they were past their first challenge of getting past the breaking waves we could see them loving their new life in the wild. We even saw one eating something it had caught after only a couple of minutes in the water.”
Lee Stewart, manager at Stapeley Grange, said: “Releasing seals back into the wild is always a lovely moment to witness. The team at Stapeley spend many months working with getting the seals back to strength. Rehabilitating a seal is an expensive and long process but it is definitely worth it, especially that heartwarming moment when they are returned back to the wild.”
Caring for seal pups is hard work, particularly in the first few weeks of them arriving at the centre.
Initially they are fed a ‘rehydrate’ solution and then are moved onto a fish soup within 24 hours. To start with they are fed five times a day, which can be stressful for both the seal pups and staff.
Pending their size and condition we will start to move them across to whole fish as soon as possible. This initially involves force feeding but slowly they get the hang of it and start to feed themselves.
As they begin to put on weight they are moved from Stapeley Grange’s isolation unit to the centre’s outside pools. They are then transferred across to the RSPCA’s East Winch wildlife centre in Norfolk for six to eight weeks, where they can socialise and start to compete for food with other pups. As soon as they weigh over 40kg they are returned to Stapeley, before being returned to the wild.
RSPCA ADVICE ON SEALS
Please do not touch the seal. They can give a nasty bite, which will become infected by the bacteria that live in a seal’s mouth.
Do not allow dogs or other animals to harass a seal – it could be scared back into the water and washed out to sea by strong currents.
Never put a seal pup back in the sea as it may get into difficulty. Many pups are suffering from pneumonia and the last thing they want or need is to go back into the water. Seals tend to get themselves as far away from the water as they can when they are sick and the RSPCA has found them some distance inland.
If you have concerns about an animal please call the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999.
The RSPCA is a charity and relies on public donations to exist. It costs the centre £50,000 to feed the 6,500 animals which are admitted every year. The food bill for seals alone costs £500 a week. Anyone who would like to support the vital work of Stapeley Grange can now donate online at www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/rspcahq/stapeleygrange.