Love Island star Eyal helps to ‘seal’ deal
Six poorly seals nursed back to health by the RSPCA were released back into the wild at Sutton Bridge on Thursday.
Former Love Island star Eyal Booker, an ambassador with the charity, helped a staff member carry three of the seals to the edge of the River Nene.
Earlier Eyal had watched as the seals’ pool was drained at the centre and saw just how playful they were before they were carefully prepared for the short journey along the A17 to freedom.
The common seals were wrapped safely inside canvas ‘stretchers’, which were opened in pairs on a muddy slipway, and two by two, Wraith, Mermaid, Brownie, Predator, Valkyries and Stig flopped down a muddy slope to the water’s edge.
A couple glanced back at their rescuers from the slipway but most were straight into the water, where they were carried on a receding tide back home to the colony in The Wash.
The release happened around 500 yards away from the West Bank lighthouse and, as the first pair swam away, heads bobbing above the water, RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre manager Alison Charles said: “This is the best bit.”
The seals were rescued in October and November, all very weak and dangerously underweight - most of them were coughing, and Brownie and Predator were coughing up blood.
Stig weighed just 10.7kg when rescued at Horsey on October 28 - but TLC from the East Winch team saw him released at a healthy 37kg.
The seals are tagged and tracked after their release, which helps the centre keep tabs on their wellbeing and understand how they live in the wild.
Alison said the tracking has shown that the seals venture further than many would think.
“One went straight round to France, one went to Holland, and some go higher up into Lincolnshire,” said Alison. “One zipped round to Essex - which is where he was from - and we realised he knew exactly what he was doing.”
She said the centre used to release seals from a boat but then discovered the spot at Sutton Bridge, which is perfect as long as they wait until the tide is right. This is a receding tide and it’s pulling them out into The Wash,” said Alison. “We are putting them into a colony of seals.”
The centre currently has 56 seals in its care - mostly grey seals - and the hope is that most will make it to a happy release day.
Alison said many of the seals in The Wash are “really sick”.
She said: “We think they are immunosuppressed.”
Once rescued, the seals are given liquids - tube fed through their stomachs - before graduating to “fish soup”, which is liquid mackerel, and are then hand fed before they can take food for themselves.
Animal lover Eyal, 24, became an ambassador with the RSPCA after he left Love Island in 2018.
As he helped with the release of the seals, he wished them “good luck”.
Eyal said: “Today’s been absolutely incredible. I didn’t really know what to expect.”
He said finding out about the work of the East Winch centre had been a real eye-opener, and praised the dedicated team there for how hard they work to save the lives of the constant stream of poorly seals in their care.
It was the first time he’d had such close contact with seals, saying he had learned a lot, such as keeping a respectful distance to avoid a potential bite.
“Faces have teeth, that’s what I got told,” he said.