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Seal pup lucky to be alive

A PREMATURE common seal pup has been lucky to survive after being rescued from a beach in Shetland and then being saved from an infection that almost killed her.

Georgie the seal pup was found on Rerwick beach soon after she had been born on Sunday evening by Katie and Grant Leask, who live nearby the popular seal haul.

They called Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary who immediately drove 60 miles to fetch her and bring her back to be cared for, after her mother abandoned her to the elements.

The day after she arrived at the sanctuary she came down with a serious infection of her umbilicus, which could easily have proved fatal.

Sanctuary owner Jan Bevington said: “We had a terrible shock when we walked into the sanctuary to give Georgie her 5 o’clock feed and found her limp and gasping for breath, as she had been fine a few hours before.

“We immediately gave her antibiotics and rehydration fluid to tackle the infection and fortunately she came round quite quickly. If we had left her for another hour we don’t think she would have survived.”

Common seal pups are usually born around midsummer in Shetland, and stay with their mothers for the first six weeks of their life.

Uniquely among seals, they moult their baby fur inside the womb, which is one way of knowing Georgie is premature.

“As soon as we saw a picture of her we knew we had to get down to Rerwick as fast as possible, otherwise she would not have survived the night,” Jan said.

“She’s a lucky seal to have survived being abandoned and then having such a bad infection, but she seems to be a strong pup despite being born early, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that she makes it through the next few weeks until she can eat fish and then we can start fattening her up ready for release.

“It feels really important to save every common seal we can, as their numbers have been plummeting by more than 50 per cent in Shetland over the past decade, and we would really like to see them protected.”

Georgie is the first common seal of the season at Hillswick, after a busy winter caring for five grey seals, including one that is still at the sanctuary recovering from a severe illness.

It has been a busy week for Jan and her husband Pete, who also rescued an otter cub from a salmon farm site in Shetland on Saturday.

“Two otter cubs appeared in the office at Cooke Aquaculture in Burrastow on Friday,” Jan explained. “The workers put them back outside thinking they would find their mum, but unfortunately she seems to have disappeared and the following day one of the cubs appeared again in the yard.

“We went straight over to fetch it and spent several hours searching for its sibling, but sadly it was nowhere to be found.

“The men called the cub they rescued Ranger and he seems to be doing well after recovering from his ordeal and losing his mum and sibling.”

A longer version of the seal pup video can be watched on Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/HillswickWildlifeSanctuary/