Warning over discarded nets as Norfolk animal hospital cares for injured seals

PUBLISHED: 16:38 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 16:44 31 July 2018

The seal which has been christened Kheer after being admitted to East Winch  Picture: RSPCA

The seal which has been christened Kheer after being admitted to East Winch Picture: RSPCA


Animal lovers caring for injured seals want to highlight the dangers to wildlife of discarding fishing nets and other litter into the sea.

An injured seal at Horsey  Picture: friends of Horsey SealsAn injured seal at Horsey Picture: friends of Horsey Seals

Staff at RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre near King’s Lynn are currently caring for three very poorly grey seals who were all caught in discarded netting dumped in the sea.

All sustained severe injuries to their necks and are still being cared for at the RSPCA many weeks after being admitted.

But there is a real concern that this is just the tip of the iceberg and that many more injured seals are out in the sea and are sadly never found.

This may result in slow painful deaths as they are unable to eat or fend for themselves, some we suspect could even drown from the weight of the rubbish which they are caught in.

An injured seal at Horsey  Picture: friends of Horsey SealsAn injured seal at Horsey Picture: friends of Horsey Seals

Over the last decade 40 entangled seals have been admitted to East Winch alone, many have been caught in either fishing litter - nets, hooks lines and plastics. However the centre has been keeping records since 1988 and during this period to 2008, not one entangled seal was admitted.

Alison Charles, centre manager, said: “We are now just over half way through the year and we have already had six entangled seals admitted to us, so it looks like this year sadly could be a record year for incidents like this.

“It is absolutely heartbreaking when a seal comes to us entangled in netting, line and plastic because it is all as a result of humans, and could so easily have been avoided.

“I am becoming increasingly concerned at how common this appears to be, while 40 over a decade may not appear a lot to some people, it is an alarming number to us at the centre, and this year alone we have already had six which is the highest number we have had in previous years.

An injured seal at Horsey  Picture: friends of Horsey SealsAn injured seal at Horsey Picture: friends of Horsey Seals

“Catching a wild seal is a very difficult task, as they will always dive back into the sea to avoid humans It’s only when they start to become weak and exhausted that rescuers can get close enough to catch them.

“Once they are rescued and come to us, it can take months to get them back to full health and strong enough to return back to the wild.”

Entangled seals are given antibiotics to combat their infected wounds as well as pain relief. Wounds must then be bathed twice daily.

“We want to raise awareness of the scale of the problem of discarded litter in our seas,” said Mrs Charles. “Seals are big strong animals and the impact on them is still huge, so it’s heartbreaking to think of all the other animals which are also suffering.

The seal christened Puri  Picture: RSPCAThe seal christened Puri Picture: RSPCA

“But we can all do our bit, whether you are a person just enjoying a day at the beach, or an organisation using the seas for commercial reasons, please don’t discard of rubbish in the sea. Just because you can no longer see it in the water, does not mean it has gone, because it hasn’t.

“We all have a duty to protect our wildlife, and I hope that recent high profile campaigns which been highlighted the issue of plastics in our seas is at last starting to get the message through.”

The three entangled seals being cared for at East Winch are:

Downham Tandoori, a young adult male grey seal who was rescued from Horsey Beach, Norfolk on May 28 and had a large piece of heavy rope trailing behind him.

Friends of Horsey Seals found him with ten feet of fishing paraphernalia - a tangle of old netting and rope - wrapped tight around his neck.

Puri, a juvenile female grey seal who was rescued from Mundesley beach Norfolk on June 30 by Seal and Shore Watch. She also had a large deep infected wound on her neck caused by netting. She is still extremely emaciated but is improving,but still has a lot of weight to gain and to improve her fitness.

Kheer, who was rescued on July 1 from Waxham beach, by the Friends of Horsey Seals also with netting around her neck. She too is still very poorly, thin and will need months of ongoing care as she also needs to gain more weight and improve her fitness.

If you see a seal - or any other animal - in distress call the RSPCA emergency line on 0300 1234 999 or click here for advice.

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