A record tidal surge that caused severe flooding and “war zone“-like damage in Norfolk, England has washed up and stranded 100 seal pups, many less than three weeks old. Staff at the the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Center says that each pup could require up to five months of rehabilitation.
Fortunately, many generous souls have responded to an appeal for funds to help care for the orphaned pups. So far, the center has received £25,000 (about $40,773) to help care for them.
Those funds are surely, and sorely, needed. According to the RSPCA, it costs £22 (about $36) a week to feed each seal. Until they lose their white fur, the pups cannot swim or survive without their mothers’ milk.
Center workers have certainly never had to care for so many rescued young seals at a time. As center manager Alison Charles tells the Independent,
“If it wasn’t for us, these seal pups would starve to death. ….This couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the seals. We are at the height of the grey seal pupping season, which means most of these poor seals should still be dependent on their mother’s milk.”
National Trust rangers at Blakeney Point, which has one of the largest colonies with about 1,000 seals and pups, said that most have been able to make their way to higher ground on the sand dunes and had been accounted for after the storm. But center workers fear that dead pups at another sites, Horsey, had been more severely affected. Volunteers said they counted 440 pups on the beach before the tidal surge but only 177 afterwards.
The record tidal surge that hit on December 5 was the worst to hit the Norfolk coast in 60 years. Sea levels in Hull peaked at 5.8m (19ft), the highest in the East Yorkshire city since 1953; they peaked at 4.7m (15ft) in Dover, Kent, the highest there in more than 100 years. Thousands have had to abandon their homes and two men have died as a result of the storm. The waters have receded but the U.K.’s Environmental Agency is urging people to stay alert for flood warnings. So far (and in just five days), £73,000 (about $158) has been raised for flood victims.
The storm and subsequent flooding have left many other animals in distress. A chicken farm in North Lincolnshire has lost 700,000 chickens. Flooding has made evacuation of some 3,000 fish from the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary necessary. Most (including 11 sharks, six penguins and a green sea turtle) were moved to safety the day after the surge struck, with some settled at Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre and others taken to quarantine facilities in Weymouth, Dorset.
The seals’ plight has been of special concern. Marcus Nash of Hindolveston, Norfolk, told the BBC he had seen a seal swimming along the route of the A149 road in Cley, Norfolk, right next to a 30 mph sign. As he commented, “It is funny to think of the concept of a seal swimming down the A149 but there is a sad side to it because it was obviously in distress.”
Seeing the seals basking on the sand is a popular and “unbelievable” experience in Norfolk. 263 seals were lost in the tidal surge according to the National Trust. It’s all the more important to continue to support the efforts of those currently caring for 100 motherless pups, so one day they can again be resting on the beach, with a new brood of seal pups among them.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons