Opinion Former Article

RSPCA: Record numbers of seals in care

New 'Meals For Seals' appeal launched as numbers double

The RSPCA is caring for a record number of seals, with a total of 61 being nursed back to health at the specialist rehabilitation centre.

The numbers of seals at the East Winch Wildlife Centre near King's Lynn in Norfolk - which specialises in caring for seals and other British wildlife - is double the number normally experienced. At this time last year, the centre had 30 seals. The number of seals in the centre's care peaked at 65 earlier this month.

Alison Charles, centre manager, said: "It is most unusual to have this number of seals in care, and especially at this time of year. They have come from all around the British Isles, and the majority are weak and emaciated on arrival.

"We used to have separate seasons one for common seals in the summer and one for grey seals in the winter. But the two seasons now seem to have merged together, and we constantly have seals in need of our care. We are not sure why we have seen this drastic change."

The centre currently has 54 grey seals and seven common seals. Many of the young grey seal pups were brought in from the north-east of England, after particularly stormy weather and very high seas. They had become separated from their mothers when they needed milk, and were starving when rescued from beaches.

When seals arrive at the centre they need to be rehydrated, and then progress to fish soup - liquidised herring with rehydration solution - and finally progress onto whole herring. At the moment it is costing about £800 a week to feed the seals.

The RSPCA has launched a new appeal called 'Meals For Seals' to allow the public to donate cash to help East Winch Wildlife Centre to feed their guests.

The wildlife centre has specialist facilities for seals. These include isolation cubicles where seals that need intensive nursing are cared for, a range of pools that enable them to regain fitness until they are ready to be released.

The centre's aim is to prepare the pups for return to the sea, and environmental enrichment plays an important part. Staff have developed ways of making the seals "work for their supper", by freezing fish in buckets of water to create giant ice cubes to make feeding more interesting. Milk crates have been cable-tied together to create a "ball", and fish are slotted into the crate, so the seals have to work out how to get the fish out.


One of East Winch's seals is due to be released today (Friday 28 March) at about 10.30am. To arrange to film or photograph the release or any other of the centre's animals call the Press Office on 0300 123 0244. The Press Office can also provide archive pictures of seals at the centre.

To donate to the Meals for Seals appeal:
- Text 'SEALS' to 60022 and we'll call you back during office hours
- Call 0300 123 0540 between 9am and 8pm from Monday to Thursday and from 9am to 5pm on Fridays.
- Visit www.rspca.org.uk/mealsforseals to donate online.

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RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288 Fax: 0303 123 0099 Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 0870 0555500 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: press@rspca.org.uk Website: www.rspca.org.uk

Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
registered charity no: 219099
Registered office: RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 9RS

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