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Last Updated: Friday, 30 April, 2004, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Early seal pup surprise on island
Cow seal and pup on Skomer Island
The cow seal is managing to feed her pup despite its early delivery
A new arrival on Skomer Island off the Pembrokeshire coast is causing quite a stir.

Conservationists have spotted a new-born seal pup, four months ahead of the usual delivery time.

Grey seals normally pup in the waters of the national nature reserve between August and November.

But the young pup is doing well, even though its mother has not had an opportunity to prepare for the three weeks of suckling.

About 150 pups are born on Skomer each year, and island warden Juan Brown says the "very rare" arrival could be an early indicator of climate change.

"There's normally a 12-month cycle for mating, gestation and delivery which starts just after the pups arrive in the early autumn," he said.

Cow seals normally take advantage of the summer when there are plenty of fish stocks in the warm sea to feed and prepare for their three weeks of feeding their young.

"So this one is a bit of a mystery - unless the mother's physiology is up the spout," said Mr Brown.


"But the young pup seems to be surviving well".

Skomer is managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales on behalf of the Countryside Council for Wales.

It is best known by birdwatchers for its puffin and manx shearwater populations, but this week a large congregation of adult seals has been seen lazing on the island's pebbly North Haven beach.

"That's an unusual sight too with up to 200 seals hauled out on the rocks. They have normally all disappeared by now, but some are still moulting their fur."

Although there were lots of visitors to the 750-acre reserve over Easter, none have so far been able to glimpse the seal pup or group of basking elders.

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