Cornwall LivingIssue #89

Seal life

It’s been another busy season at The Cornish Seal Sanctuary with over 70 seal pup rescues.

Although the seal pupping season is from September until March – the period of time in the UK where we receive the most storms and rough seas – this is nonetheless a busy time of year for the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, being peak season for visitors as well as the Animal Care Team’s ongoing care of the sanctuary’s permanent residents.

“a journey from rescue to release”

A pup will need to come to the sanctuary for a variety of reasons, from malnourishment, being separated from its mother too early, or for more sinister reasons – such as life threatening wounds from being entangled in marine litter. This season, the sanctuary has had four pups come into their care as a result of plastic pollution in our oceans.

One pup, named after Queen legend Brian May, was rescued at five weeks old by British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), due to severe malnourishment and superficial wounds. The seriousness of his condition came to light during his first week recovering at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. He spent the majority of his time sleeping, and when it came to feeding times he had trouble swallowing fish and the team had to gently force feed him fish in order for him to eat. It came as a great shock when Brian May passed two pieces of plastic bag, totalling 8cm in diameter.

The sanctuary are aware that rubbish in the ocean affects seals – previous research conducted at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary indicated that seals ingest plastic via fish. Seals in Cornwall are also heavily affected by plastic pollution and entanglement. Volunteer surveys conducted by Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust around the south west of England identified 102 different entangled seals in 2016/17 alone. However, Brian May is the first example the sanctuary has seen of a seal directly ingesting a plastic bag. Thankfully, after going through rehabilitation, Brian May was successfully released back into the wild after making a full recovery.

The sanctuary rely heavily on members of the public getting in touch if they discover a seal pup on the beach, and without this vital help the team would not be able to do their pup rehabilitation work every year. This year, the sanctuary launched their brand new Beach Signage around local beaches in Cornwall. The signage was made in collaboration with several charities and organisations as a guide for the public when out and about on the beaches; what to do if they come across a seal, who to call, and some tips on how to protect local wildlife and look after our beaches. This signage is supplied and maintained by the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, and if any local beaches would like a sign they simply need to call the sanctuary who will organise the rest!

As all of this season’s rescued pups have been released into the wild, the sanctuary are launching their brand new Virtual Reality experience this summer. Guests can take a journey from rescue to release with the rescued seal pups, getting closer to pups than the animal care team do, all through the medium of virtual reality. The Virtual Reality experience was made possible by Rose Summers, a visual communicator, using 360° virtual reality, photography and video to tell stories that highlight conservation and the natural world.

‘Rescue to Release: A 360° Virtual Tour’ was part of Rose’s final year project for her Marine & Natural History Photography degree at Falmouth University. She worked with The Cornish Seal Sanctuary and local seal conservation and research groups to produce a virtual reality experience that takes audience’s to the centre of the action.

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary also provides a permanent home to animals that need special care from their team of marine animal experts. When visiting the sanctuary, you can experience wonderful marine animals up close and learn all about their individual stories.



The Cornish Seal Sanctuary opening times are from 10am until 5pm with last admissions at 4pm.


The Cornish Seal Sanctuary

"a journey from rescue to release"