Page last updated at 16:53 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 17:53 UK

Ice helps seal tackle cold phobia

Sahara the Arctic hooded seal rolling on ice
The seals usually live in Arctic waters

An Arctic hooded seal with an apparent aversion to the cold is overcoming his phobia with the aid of an ice machine.

Sahara hit the headlines when he twice swam more than 1,000 miles from his native arctic waters to the decidedly warmer Canaries.

Each time he was rescued and returned to the Cornwall Seal Sanctuary.

The ice machine makes half a tonne of ice each day for him to sit on in a bid to create an environment which is a bit more like his natural home.

"We obviously thought it was going to be a hotter summer than it has been," said Rachael Vine from the sanctuary.

He likes to crunch it and rub his nose in it
Rachael Vine, Cornwall Seal Sanctuary

"But it's still been pretty balmy compared to the average summer temperatures in the Arctic."

The sanctuary at Gweek was loaned the ice-maker by a firm in Ipswich for the summer and it has been set up at the side of his pool.

He fled to the opposite end of his enclosure when staff first started shovelling in the ice, but the cold treatment now seems to be working.

"He really enjoys sitting on the ice now and also likes to crunch it and rub his nose in it," said Ms Vine.

"We don't think it will be long now before Sahara is a proper ice-loving Alaskan seal again."

Arctic seals are solitary creatures who spend much of the year alone - only seeking out other seals to breed.

Sahara the Arctic hooded seal rolling on ice
He is the only Arctic hooded seal being cared for in the UK

Sahara is currently the only Arctic hooded seal being cared for in the UK.

The two-year-old was originally rescued after being found on a beach in the Canary Islands in April 2007.

Malnourished and bald, he was nursed backed to health at the Gweek sanctuary.

He was then released last October after being transported by road, sea and air back to his natural habitat near the Orkney Islands.

But after swimming more than 1,000 miles in the wrong direction he was rescued by a Spanish sanctuary before returning once again to Cornwall.




SEE ALSO
Arctic seal back in wrong water
15 Nov 07 |  Cornwall
Delight as bald seal's fur grows
16 Jun 07 |  Cornwall
'Hair-raising trip' for bald seal
05 Apr 07 |  Cornwall

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