On a dreary misty, unspringlike day, we had a wonderful visit from Stephanie and Alison from the Seal and Shore Watch. With the help of some lovely slides Stephanie proceeded to tell us all about their work. At present they are confined to the North Norfolk coast but their hopes are to extend further and to raise enough money to open their own sanctuary to prevent sick and injured seals having to travel to Great Yarmouth. The pups are weaned at just 3 weeks old, simply by the mother swimming back out to sea and leaving them on the beach. After about two weeks hunger drives the pups into the sea to begin fishing. They come on land if they are tired or sick, to digest their food, to mate and to give birth. So not all seals lying on the beach need our help. The trained vet medics of Seal Watch have to ascertain their condition which isn’t easy, particularly as seals can and will give a very nasty bite which can take a year to heal as its saliva is so full of toxins.
One of Stephanie’s favourites was Blixen who was rescued from the beach grossly underweight at just 18 kilos. He was shivering, dehydrated and very hungry. After just 9 weeks at the sanctuary his weight rose to a more respectable 45 kilos and he was well enough to be released. He turned up in Northumberland months later bursting with health and still sporting his tag which enabled him to be identified. His before and after pictures were heart-warming to see. The other side of the coin can be demonstrated by another pup who died through eating one crisp packet and it was a slow and painful death.
We were told about one of our North Norfolk characters, Salty George, who is a huge male seal. One of the Seal Watch team saw him on the beach apparently caressing a young pup. When he grew closer he saw the George had the pup in a tight grip and intended to eat it. The volunteer clapped his hands and shouted and Salty George dropped the pup and splashed back into the sea. The pup then managed to escape and hide safely. The volunteer, watching the pup, hadn’t realised that Salty George had done a u-turn and was heading straight for him. He took to his heels and managed to out-run him! From a safe distance he saw that the pup was still safe and Salty George, though obviously furious, was returning to the sea once more!
It is imperative that dogs and children be kept well away from all seals, including the pups. Parents have been seen putting children on to the backs of pups to take a picture. People have been coming up close to take selfies and some let their dogs run free, scaring the seals and endangering the pups. Common sense must prevail when we’re near to animals and birds of all kinds and seals in particular. It should be remembered that seals are wild with a short temper and to safeguard your pets and your family you must keep out of reach.
The beached whales some months ago were found to have stomachs full of plastic in all its forms. One even had an car part in his stomach. In the absence of deep water fishing, having taken the wrong turn at Scotland and ending up in the shallower North Sea, they tried to eat anything they found and it killed them.
We must all make every effort to use less plastic and clean up our coastline. There are regular litter-picks locally which wouldn’t take long to join. Any effort is worth doing for all our wildlife. These creatures are so precious and they need our support.
We are grateful for Stephanie and Alison’s visit and for all the things they showed us. It was a moving and informative afternoon and was very much enjoyed by all our members and visitors.
The Strand Club’s annual outing this year will be to Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. We are presenting this opportunity to anyone who would like to come. We will be leaving the Sea Marge in Overstrand at 10.45 on Wednesday, 13th June with a further pickup at the bus stop near Cromer Hospital at 10.55. We will be back at about 5.30. The cost for the coach and entrance will be £20.25 per person and an optional buffet lunch will take the cost for the day to £30.15. If you require any further information about the day please contact Chris Wood, Secretary, on 01263 459433 or Jackie Hudson, Chairman, on 01263 720866 by no later than 9th May.
You would be most welcome to join us at the Pavilion on any future date should you wish to try us out – for instance 11th July for a talk from Ben’s Workforce, a part of the Benjamin Foundation. All our talks begin at 2pm and entrance costs just £2 to include light refreshments. We will be delighted to meet you! Contact Chris or Jackie for more details.