Satellite survey keeps track of rescued seals

Satellite survey keeps track of rescued seals

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Six orphaned seals are to have their every move logged by satellite for a groundbreaking study that aims to improve the odds of seals raised in captivity surviving in the wild. After stays of up to six months at the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre in Norfolk, U.K. six common seals – Nemo, Hercules, Shrek, Morocco, Snoopy and Skippy – have been released this week, after being tagged, into the Wash, off Norfolk and Lincolnshire. Special transmitters are glued on to the seals’ fur and should record the duration and depth of dives until the seals moult in August.

The Society believes the study will provide crucial information on how the animals fare, whether they need ‘diving lessons’ and whether fattening them up for release makes them too unfit to cope with life in the wild. To conduct the study, which is claimed to be a world-first, the RSPCA teamed up with the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews, which supported by the Department of Trade and Industry, is tracking wild common seals in the area at the same time.

By comparing results from the two studies the RSPCA hopes to understand more about the impact of being reared in captivity. Laila Sadler, RSPCA marine scientific officer, said: “For the first time we will be able to compare the diving and ranging behaviour of wild animals with our rehabilitated seals. This should give us valuable pointers as to how we can give other young seals the best chance of survival.” The seals were found stranded along the East Coast aged around two to three months old. They had become separated from their mothers and were suffering from a variety of ailments.

By: Roger Highfield