Sea you later as seals are freed in Hunstanton
Three seals became the first to be released back to the wild this season when they were taken back to their original home last week.
The seal rescue team at Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary successfully released the common seals last Saturday at Hunstanton.
The animals had been named after endangered species to raise awareness of their plight.
The releases are planned carefully, taking into account weather, tides and the final seal weigh-in.
Once the team perform their final seal health checks, the team herd the seals into specifically-designed stretchers and escort them on to the beach where they get to be released back into the wild.
Ridley, a common seal, was rescued on Hunstanton beach on June 13 – found exhausted and showing signs of dehydration, the team suspected Ridley had been abandoned after being reported as spotted the night before in the area.
Animal care team member Natalie Emmerson said: “This year we wanted to increase awareness of vulnerable and endangered species from across the world.
“Ridley was named after the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the world’s most-endangered sea turtle. It’s estimated there are less than 1,000 individuals left in the wild and are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red list.”
Common seal pups, Natterjack and Leatherback, were both rescued from Snettisham beach less than a week apart.
Natterjack, rescued on June 20, was named after the natterjack toad. These amphibians are rare in Britain and prefer coastal dunes and saltmarshes, and so are protected under both British and European law to help increase the population size.
In Norfolk they can be found on the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Reserves at Holme and Syderstone Common.
Leatherback was rescued on June 25. Leatherback turtles are so-named due to their leather-like shell.
Their numbers have been declining due to intense egg collection, fisheries bycatch and climate change.
“Each of the seals was tagged before releasing so they could be identified if they ever needed our help again, this year our seal rescue team has received a high number of call-outs to seals in a very short period of time,” Natalie said.
“At several points this year our seal hospital has been stretched to full capacity.
“Sometimes the best thing you can do for an adorable seal pup is exactly the opposite of what you want to do. These animals need space, with limited human interference, if any.
“It’s very natural for the seal pups to be left on the beach, this allows the mother time to hunt, so she can produce a nutrient rich milk for the pup.”
She said it is important for the mother to not sense any human interference or unusual smells and moving the seal can cause mother seals to abandon pups as a result.