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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 September, 2004, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Seals rescued in record numbers
Stranded seal
A pup rescued by the RSPCA at Martyns Haven last week
Rescuers say they are having to cope with more seals stranded on the south and west Wales coast than at any time since the Sea Empress disaster.

Between them the RSPCA's Llys Nini Centre in Swansea and the Milford Haven based Marine Life Rescue have saved around 30 babies this month.

Both are blaming storms caused by the hurricanes that have devastated parts of the USA and Caribbean.

Many of the seals have been badly injured and dangerously under weight.

Most of the pubs are literally 10 days to two weeks old and they can't fend for themselves
Steve Byrnes

They will be nursed back to health and released back into the wild when they are fit and strong enough to fend for themselves.

What rescuers call the seal season - the time when the newly born seal pups are most vulnerable - usually starts in September and continues into the New Year.

In previous years the animal centre in Swansea has accommodated three or four baby seals each year, but so far, eight seal pups have been admitted.

High tides

Marine Life Rescue usually helps around 30 seals in a season but has rescued 20 in the past two weeks.

The animals have been recovered from a stretch running from the Gower peninsular to the west coast of Pembrokeshire.

Steve Byrnes of the RSPCA said: "Storms earlier this month may have separated baby from mother.

Seal being treated
One of the baby seals rescued by the RSPCA

"Perhaps the seas were too rough for the mother to land to feed the baby, or perhaps the high tides and storm waves have washed the youngsters off the beach.

"The injured seals have gashes, cuts and abrasions consistent with being driven on to the rocks.

"Most of the pubs are literally 10 days to two weeks old and they can't fend for themselves."

'Headless chickens'

The seals are treated at the centre until they are well enough to be transported to the RSPCA's seal hospital in Norfolk.

They will be released back into the sea off west Wales in April or May.

Terry Leadbetter of Marine Life Rescue said: "For the last two weeks we have been running around like headless chickens.

Terry Leadbetter
Terry Leadbetter has rescued 20 baby seals in the last two weeks

"It's the busiest it's been since the Sea Empress disaster."

He said anyone who finds a baby seal that looks as if it is stranded should not get too close and not allow children or dogs to approach it.

"If people thinks it is injured or needs attention we would prefer a call even if it turns out the seal is capable of looking after itself."

Mr Leadbetter said as well as storms caused by the fallout out from the four hurricanes on the east coast of America in the last month unusually high tides of up to 7.8m had played their part.

"We have rescued about 20 seals in the last two weeks and we would normally expect to rescue about 30 in a season," he added.

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