Submitted by Steve on 11:16, 25th Aug, 2016 | 0

Rio the Common or also known as Harbour Seal Pup has made it through her first night although is still extremely thin and weak.

Named Rio by the team at the Animal Shelter the young seal pup was rescued yesterday by Alderney Wildlife Trust and first taken to Alderney Animal Welfare Society where it was treated by Vet John Knight before being transported to Guernsey.

At only 9kg she is the thinnest seal pup to be taken in at the GSPCA and first Common Seal to be seen in a very long time.

Common Seal Pups are much smaller than the Grey Seals which we do see off the coast of Guernsey regularly and are born much earlier as the Commons pup in around August and the Greys more likely around December.

Geaff George Animal Collection Officer said “Rio is extremely thin and we are having to give rehydration fluids every couple of hours directly into the stomach to keep Rio alive and build strength.”

“Rio is extremely emaciated and has a number of injuries and we are doing everything we can at the GSPCA for the Common Seal Pup that was rescued in Alderney yesterday.”

Steve Byrne GSPCA Manager said “Thankfully Rio has made it through the first night at the GSPCA but is still extremely thin and weak and we are doing all we can to keep the pup alive.”

“Geoff collected Rio from the airport yesterday and when we weighed the Common Seal Pup only weighed 9kg and it is just skin and bone and would have likely died if it hadn’t been rescued by Alderney Wildlife Trust and taken to Alderney Animal Welfare Society.”

“We are all keeping our fingers crossed for Rio and providing around the clock intensive care to do all we can at the GSPCA to keep the pup alive.”

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Common Seal Pup facts -

Recognition: Fine spot-patterned grey or brown fur; rounded head with no ears visible; 'V' shaped nostrils and long whiskers as with the Grey seal.

Size: 140-185cm including flippers of about 20cm.

Weight: 8-16kg at birth; up to 130kg in adults.

Life Span: A female common seal can reach 30 years of age, but males are unlikely to survive beyond 20 years.

Distribution & Habitat: Common seals feed at sea but regularly haul out on to rocky shores or inter-tidal sandbanks to rest, or to give birth and to suckle their pups. The most important haul-out areas for common seals are around the coast of Scotland, particularly in the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland, and on the east coast of England in the Wash, also around Strangford Lough and in SW Ireland.  There are also a few that are around parts of the coast of France but rare to see them in the Channel Islands, although a pup was rescued in Jersey in the last week.

Behaviour: Young seals may travel distances of several hundred kilometres but adults appear to remain faithful to favoured haul-out areas from year to year. The particular sites used may however vary with the seasons. Common seals travel up to 50km from haul-out sites to feed and may remain at sea for several days. Here they spend time diving, staying underwater for up to 10 minutes, and reaching depths of at least 50 metres. The way in which common seals hunt is poorly understood.

Diet and Feeding: Known to eat a wide variety of fish, including herring, sand eels, whiting and flatfish. Shrimps and squid are also sometimes eaten.

Reproduction: Females give birth to a single pup in June or July each year. Pups are very well developed at birth and can swim and dive when just a few hours old. This enables common seals to breed in estuaries where sandbanks are exposed for only part of the day. Mothers feed their young with an extremely rich milk and pups grow rapidly, doubling their birth weight during the three or four weeks that they suckle.

Conservation status: The common seal is in fact less common in British waters than the grey seal, at about 55,000 compared with around 120,000 grey seals, but around Ireland the two species are more equally represented: about 3,000 common seals and 4,000 grey seals.

The UK Conservation of Seals Act (1970) protects common seals during their breeding season, although seals causing damage to fishing gear, or taking fish from nets, may be killed under licence. The Act also allows seals to be fully protected when required. Following the 1988 seal plague, common seals in England, Wales and Scotland were given year-round protection.

Common seal pups used to be hunted for their skins, particularly in Shetland and in the Wash. This probably over-exploited populations in some areas and led to the seals being protected in 1970. There is continuing controversy over the impact that seals might have on fish stocks although, in Britain, grey seals have received more blame from fishermen than common seals.

Seals are at the top of the food chain and so tend to accumulate pollutants such as heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which are persistent in the environment. Female common seals feeding on fish with high levels of PCBs may fail to breed and pollution could thus hinder the recovery of some populations which have been reduced by disease.

If anyone see's a pup with or without a mum we really do appreciate a call so that we are aware of its location and condition but here is some advice.

A healthy pup looks like a big, stuffed maggot without a neck. However, a thin pup looks sleek (but not bony) and has a visible neck, like a healthy dog.

PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE SEAL. They can give a nasty bite, which will become infected by bacteria that live in a seal’s mouths.

Note: Do not allow dogs or other animals to harass a seal.

If a Seal is scared back into the water, it could then be washed out to sea by strong currents and be lost. You should not put a seal pup back in the sea as it may get into difficulty.

If a Seal pup is sick, thin or injured then we would ask you to contact the GSPCA immediately on 01481 257261 day or night

When reporting an injured, sick or abandoned seal to the GSPCA, please make sure you are able to supply the following information:

  • Exact location; nearest town / village
  • Position on the beach, and state of the tide
  • How long you have observed the pup; any disturbance / risk to it; whether the mother has been seen
  • Any wounds / obvious signs of illness
  • Length/colour/condition.

Pictured above is Jethou Bumblebee and Hanois two Grey Seals GSPCA staff rescued and cared for which were released on Jethou April 2013. 

Caution:- Handling of any animal either domestic, wild, dead or alive may be potentially hazardous. Obvious dangers include bites, scratches and general hygiene issues. Common sense should be applied in all instances and, if unsure, seek additional advice or assistance. Personal hygiene should be taken into consideration after handling any animal, whether it’s domestic, wild, dead or alive.

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