Flotsam and Jetsam, our Common Seals

The National Seal Sanctuary has two unique new residents...following a special mercy mission to the northern tip of Denmark. The two new arrivals have become the Sanctuary´s first ever resident common seals, which means future visitors will now be able to see both the species that are found around the coast of the UK.

A special animal transport company was dispatched to the North Sea Museum at Hirtshals in Denmark, there to collect the three-year-old and one-year-old seals, both of whom had been born at the Museum.
One of our Common Seals
"Danish law prevents captive reared or even rescued seal pups from being returned to the wild," said Seal Sanctuary curator Dr Glen Boyle, "and the Hirtshals facility was keen to find a new home for these two before they had a chance to breed."

"Although they have a decent-sized pool of about 800,000 litres, it was a little overcrowded already with another seven common seals and two greys," he added.

"That provided us with an opportunity to offer our visitors something we´ve wanted to offer them for a very long time," said Sanctuary Manager Judy Williams.
One of our common seals "As we are primarily a rescue facility, and common seals are rare around the Cornish coast, we´ve had fewer than you can count on one hand pass through the Sanctuary in our entire 42-year history."

"And those few were only with us as long as it took to get them well enough to go back to the wild. The two new seals, on the other hand, will be permanent residents...and they´re both absolutely gorgeous."
Smaller and arguably much "cuter" than their grey cousins, the common seals have quickly made themselves at home in a small outdoor pool recently vacated by two rehabilitated grey seal pups.

"They seem very tame and more than content in their new surrounds," said Judy, "but they will be moving again in a month or two, to one of our larger pools, which is to be fully refurbished in readiness."

The common or "harbour" seal, though rare in Cornwall, is actually the most widely distributed species in the world, found through the northern hemisphere on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

There are an estimated 36,000 spread around the UK, the biggest populations being in The Wash and the west coast of Scotland.

We ran a competition over Easter 2003 for all children visiting the Sanctuary to suggest names for our two common seals and after many hours of deliberation and hundreds of entries, the winning entry, Flotsam and Jetsam, was from: Jack and Catie Parsons who won a Year´s Sponsorship and a Fluffy Seal.

Flotsam is the smaller and paler one of the two at just over a year old, and his half brother Jetsam is three years old and has a lovely dark speckled coat. They have settled in very well, and the Animal Care Team have instigated a training programme which both have responded very well to. The seals confidence has increased dramatically from when they first arrived; both now come out of the water with expectant faces whenever someone walks past with a bucket of fish!

The common seal population has been decimated for the second time in less than 15 years by a deadly virus, phocine distemper virus. On both occasions an estimated 18-20,000 of the North Sea population were wiped out.

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