Cornish Seal Sanctuary
Seals at the sanctuary
|Location||Gweek, Cornwall, England|
Gweek Seal Sanctuary (or Cornish Seal Sanctuary) is owned by Merlin Entertainments and is a sanctuary for injured seal pups. It is situated on the banks of the Helford River in Cornwall, England, UK and there is a road along the creek from the centre of Gweek village to the sanctuary's large car park.
The origins of the seal sanctuary goes back to 1958 when the founder, Ken Jones, discovered a baby seal washed up on the beach near his home at St Agnes. This was the first of many rescues. By 1975, the work had outgrown the single pool at St Agnes and a new site was found at Gweek. The Gweek site slowly grew, and today has five pools and a specially designed hospital.
- Stated goals
- To rescue and provide professional treatment for sick, injured or distressed marine mammals who are found around our shores.
- To rehabilitate or provide and maintain a home for the unfortunate animals that would otherwise would perish in the wild.
- To release the rehabilitated marine mammals safely back into their natural environment.
- To create a greater awareness of the marine environment through the work that is undertaken.
More than forty grey seal pups are rescued each year. The aim is to release them back into the wild having given them the best chance of survival.
The rescue normally starts with a call about an apparently abandoned pup. If the rescue team decide that the pup is in danger, then it is captured and taken to the sanctuary. Upon arrival, a full medical assessment is carried out, and a course of treatment is decided. Many of the pups are malnourished, with infected wounds. When the seal starts to recover and gain weight, they are transferred to convalescence pools. Here they interact with other seals learning to compete for their food.
After a few months, when the seal has reached a good weight and back to full health, they are released back into the sea, preferably near where they were originally discovered. Before release they are given a flipper tag, and recently have been given a hat tag which falls off at the first moult. These provide useful information on the survival rate of the rescues.
The sanctuary aims to rehabilitate all rescued pups. It has an impressive record, between 1981 and 2013 only four seals have been diagnosed as never being able to survive in the wild. They have joined the full-time residents at the sanctuary.
The long term residents are seals that unfortunately would never survive in the wild, due to health reasons, or just because they have been in captivity too long. Some of the residents share a pool with the rescue pups, providing good experience at feeding times, teaching the pups to fight for their food.