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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 April, 2003, 19:43 GMT 20:43 UK
Seal outwits rescuers - again
Salty the seal swimming
The elusive Salty has been renamed Houdini by some
A seal which anglers had threatened to shoot has again frustrated attempts to rescue him from a river near Loch Lomond.

Divers called it a day on Sunday after spending about 12 hours trying in vain to catch Salty, also known as Andre, and now nicknamed Houdini.

Salty had faced execution at dawn on Wednesday by anglers on the River Leven, who accused him of eating salmon stocks worth thousands of pounds.

However, after pressure from the media and hundreds of locals who turned out to protest, plans to shoot the three-year-old seal were dropped.

A team of rescuers, from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, started trying to catch him last week by laying a series of small tuna nets and herring-baited pontoons - to no avail.

On Sunday about 20 marine experts anchored one huge 100ft by 80ft net to the riverbed in the hope of catching the seal when he took to the water for a swim.

Marine experts trying to catch Salty the Seal
We will have to have a re-think, he has us stumped
Rescue co-ordinator Gareth Norman
Their latest rescue attempt started before 0630 BST on Sunday and carried on into the early evening, before the divers gave up.

Rescue co-ordinator Gareth Norman said the seal had out-witted them.

He said: "We have tried all the nets but Andre has managed to elude them.

"We thought we were prepared with the new net, which was brought up from England, but we will have to have a re-think.

"He has us stumped."

No sex

Doreen Graham, from the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA), said the seal's natural habitat was salty, not fresh, water.

"Man is his enemy, but in this case we are actually trying to do him a big favour.

Marine experts trying to catch Salty the seal
We wish he would just let his guard down for a minute so we can get him off to his proper home
Doreen Graham, SSPCA
"We wish he would just let his guard down for a minute so we can get him off to his proper home."

She added: "At his age, most seals are preoccupied with food and sex.

"He is getting plenty of the first but not enough of the other, which he would find more of at a colony in the wild."

The divers are expected to stage another rescue attempt on Tuesday. New tactics may include a sonar seal-scarer normally used on fish farms, and different bait including squid and crab.

Poison risk

The River Leven Angling Improvement Association, which had threatened the shooting, said on Sunday it hoped the rescue would work.

"He needs to be brought out of the river for his own safety," said association chairman Michael Brady.

Already local idiots have set dogs on it, shot at it with air pistols and thrown bricks at it
River Leven Angling Improvement Association
"In reality I feel like I am saving Andre because, left in the river for another five or six weeks, he would be killed one way or another.

"Already local idiots have set dogs on it, shot at it with air pistols and thrown bricks at it.

"The main danger is that someone tries to poison it, and that would mean suffering a lingering death, which nobody wants. We all want a happy ending."

Salty has become a popular tourist attraction since he first appeared in Loch Lomond a year ago.

He became stranded in shallow water after managing to swim into the River Leven and over a weir at Balloch, as he tried to make his way back to the sea.

When captured he will be transported to Fife, where he will be released amongst a colony of grey seals.

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