An unlucky common seal – who needed the help of the RSPCA – had only returned to the wild earlier this year after spending eight months of rehabilitation with Seal Rescue Ireland.
The RSPCA was contacted after the troubled seal – now named Prius – was spotted by a member of the public at the Salt Marshes, off Fabian Way at Jersey Marine, near the Swansea University Bay Campus.
RSPCA Cymru transferred the seal – on 7 March – to specialist wildlife facilities at West Hatch – where it was found to weigh only 14.9kg, meaning the animal is “seriously underweight”.
The seal is undergoing veterinary care – having also been rescued by the RSPCA with significant fur loss to her flanks and belly.
Prius had previously spent time with Seal Rescue Ireland, having been rescued as a pup in July 2017, after being found alone, on the Republic of Ireland’s west coach, at Bishop’s Quarter Beach in Ballyvaughan.
Staff at Seal Rescue Ireland had previously nicknamed the pup Gwen before her release at Cork.
The common seal’s rescue followed a hugely busy seal rescue season for the RSPCA – with the charity coming to the aid of more than one hundred in the South West & West Wales region alone.
RSPCA animal collection officer (ACO) Ellie West said: “This poor seal has certainly had a difficult time – with this her second rescue since July last year.
“This seal had been tagged by Seal Rescue Ireland, which gives us valuable information on where she has come from. We now know she had spent eight months in their care – having been rescued at Ballyvaughan, and released near Cork a few days into 2018.
“Prius – formerly Gwen – was seriously underweight when we collected her, and she’ll now undergo a period of specialist rehabilitation to ensure this common seal can be safely returned to the wild. We’ll want to see her weighing 35kg before she’s safely released.
“We also give the seals we rescue and release identification tags on their hind flippers – and from science-based research, this helps us find the best criteria for release. We do get good feedback from sightings and even see some of the seals we release with their own young – which highlights the importance of this rescue work.
“It is so rewarding to see them go back to where they belong and, hopefully, after a spell of rehabilitation and at a healthy weight Prius will be released back into the wild.”
Melanie Croce, Operations Manager of Seal Rescue Ireland, added: “Gwen was a common seal pup that was rescued in July from Ballyvaughn, Co Clare and transported to the Seal Rescue Centre in Courtown, Co Wexford. Gwen was found orphaned and alone, estimated at only 8 days old, and very emaciated weighing in at a mere 6kg.
“After five months of constant care in a kennel, she was big and healthy enough to move to one of the facility’s pools to complete her rehabilitation process. There she continued to gain weight, build swim muscles, and learn to compete until her release a month later on 7th January, 2018 when she was up to 26.4 kg.
“SRI uses flipper tags to identify all seals they release, and there have been extremely few cases of released seals being found or picked up again. This indicates that the vast majority of the seals flourish when returned to the wild. Unfortunately, there are always exceptions and with the recent increase in severe storms, all wild populations are facing added pressure for survival.
“This extreme weather has also contributed to our facility admitting a record number of intakes at 137 and counting this season.
“It’s unfortunate that Gwen has required rescuing a second time, having lost 12.6 kg in weight in two short months, but we are grateful to our friends at RSPCA in Wales for having found her and providing her with care. It is a testament to the importance of collaboration and tracking data to contribute to collective understanding of marine species.
“We wish Gwen – now Prius – a swift recovering in the capable hands of the RSPCA and hope that when she is released it will be the last time she requires human intervention.”
Should you wish to help the RSPCA rescue animals like Prius, you can donate online.