Chronicles of Cornwall:
the seal, the teacher and the shower room

Having managed to get away with some great weather for the successful launch of the new BDMLR rescue boat ´Josh´ the previous day, the 15th proved to be the opposite, which was fine since Medics from Cornwall and Devon were gathered inside the Camborne Pool Redruth Learning Space, courtesy of Medic/Cornwall Seal Group leader/ Learning Space teacher Sue Sayer, to learn from National BDMLR Coordinator Trevor Weeks how to rescue oiled birds.

Less than two hours after the end of the course, West Cornwall Coordinator Tim Bain received a call from the National Coastwatch Institute at St Ives about a seal pup hauled out on rocks by Porthgwidden beach. Tim called Coordinator Dave Jarvis, who advised the Seal Sanctuary, while he went to search for the pup. Sure enough, the pup was sitting not far from the edge of the incoming tide, well camouflaged amongst the rocks and boulders. He recontacted Dave, who set out with Medic Dan Jarvis and the seal cage, as he was concerned that it appeared dehydrated and slightly underweight. Strangely enough, the seal was also covered in a large amount of thick oil!

While waiting for Dave and Dan´s arrival, Tim spoke with Animal Care Assistant Marianne Fellows from the Sanctuary about the pup. She advised that the Sanctuary´s Isolation pens were all full after another pup, a whitecoat, had arrived the evening before. They discussed having the pup taken to the RSPCA Hospital at West Hatch in Taunton, so Tim then contacted BDMLR Chairman Alan Knight who was returning to Sussex with Sue White and Trevor, and had gotten as far as the other end of the county. Alan offered to come back and meet halfway if the plan to take it to West Hatch went ahead, so that they could drop the seal off on their way home.

By now, Dave and Dan had arrived with the cage, and the three of them went down onto the rocks to assess the animal more closely. The seal appeared bright and alert, but approximately 50% of its back and its rear flippers were all coated with tar-like oil. A few bite wounds were also noticed on the fore and rear flippers as well as a small amount of creamy-yellow discharge from the nose. Tim jumped the seal while Dan took its temperature, which came out as 37.9°C. The pup was then loaded into the cage and Dave spoke with Marianne about the arrangements, and it was decided that Tim would hold the pup overnight and Dave would bring it to the Sanctuary the following morning. Dave also spoke with Sue Sayer who had also been contacted about the pup, and she kindly offered the use of her shower room to keep the pup in for the night.

At Sue´s, the pup was released form the cage and Tim jumped it again and tube fed the seal rehydration fluids and then Sue, Dan and Medic Lesley Jarvis, who Dave had picked up, could give it a thorough wash with soapy water and sponges to get rid of the majority of the oil. After this, the pup was taken through to the shower room (which I think has now been renamed Sue´s seal pen!) and left to rest for the night before it was taken to the Sanctuary in the morning.

The pup, a male, was named ´Josh´ in honour of Josh Hayes, who sadly died in 2005 after a long illness and whose family have been longtime supporters of British Divers Marine Life Rescue. The new South West rescue boat has also been named ´Josh´ in his honour, so to name a seal after him as well was an extra bonus and a token of our gratitude to Josh´s family and to all the hard work that everyone has put in to raise funds to get the new boat, which we are all very pleased with and grateful for.
Medic Dan Jarvis
BDMLR West Cornwall
(Newquay - Land´s End - St Austell)
Date: 15th January 2006

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