British Divers Marine Life Rescue
British Divers Marine Life Rescue (photo: Steve Marsh)
British Divers Marine Rescue


2007-11-08 17:22:41

24 Hours is a Long Time in Cornwall

Wednesday 7th November

10.30 – Cornwall Area Co-ordinator Tim Bain received a ‘running call’ from one of his contacts in St Ives to advise that a young seal had been seen on the beach at the back of the Lifeboat Station. He immediately contacted Dave Jarvis to ask him to bring equipment, in case it was necessary to rescue the animal. Whilst en-route Dave also advised the National Seal Sanctuary & BDMLR Head Office of the situation. Upon arrival at the beach Tim soon spotted the animal not far from a young family who were observing it. It was immediately obvious that the pup, although fully moulted, was extremely small & inactive. It was also noticed that it was jet black all over, with no obvious markings. There were no signs of any injuries, but its temperature was found to be about 35.6 degrees. Having liased with the Sanctuary it was decided that the animal should be uplifted & transported in to them. Soon afterwards Dave arrived at the scene & Tim was assisted in placing the animal firstly into a seal bag, before transferring it into the seal cage. The pup was soon at the Sanctuary, where its temperature had risen by about 1 degree & was found to be 11.5kgs, but also to everyone’s surprise to be female. Having cleaned all of the equipment Dave & Tim returned to their respective homes at about 14.30.

16.00 – Following the morning’s activities, Tim decided to go for a walk along the coast path. When he arrived at a place known locally as Foxholes, from the clifftop he observed a young seal hauled out on the beach & apparently in a less that optimal condition. Tim again contacted both Dave Jarvis & the National Seal Sanctuary to appraise them of what he was observing. Unfortunately due to the tide conditions & failing light, it was impossible to access the beach safely that evening. It was therefore decided that Tim would go out & check the beach in the following morning.

18.30 – The bi-monthly Cornwall Seal Group was being held in Camborne & not only were subjects such as the Hayle Wave Hub, anaesthesia in seals & the plethora of pups that had been born locally discussed, but also the recent rescues that had been carried out by both the Seal Sanctuary & BDMLR. Unfortunately, during the course of the meeting, it was also reported that a major rockfall had occurred at a cove earlier that day, the obvious aftermath of which was at least two dead adults, but also that the newest pup, called Missie, & her mother, who had been in the immediate vicinity, were missing. By the time the meeting closed at 23.30 (an early finish), plans had been formulated to deal with both situations.

Thursday 8th November

8.30 – Tim made his way around the coast path & after initially finding the pup in a slightly different location, but ‘slumped’ over a rock with seabirds around it, re-contacted both the Sanctuary & Dave Jarvis to advise that he considered that it would be necessary to have it rehabilitated. Gweek agreed to make their way over to collect the pup, whilst Dave transported rescue equipment in the Born Free Foundation Landrover, which is currently on loan to BDMLR. Having observed the pup for a short while, Tim noticed that it was attempting to struggle back down to the water’s edge, so he summoned assistance from two members of the public, Helen & Adey, who were in the area. Tim & Adey clambered down onto the beach, as the pup was now accessible due to it being low water & caught the animal before it could escape. At about this time Dave arrived in the nearest car park, accompanied by medics Lesley & Dan Jarvis (the latter being on the Animal Care Team at Gweek now rescuing seals in his spare time as well). Dan went on ahead & down to assist Tim & Adey in bringing the pup back up onto the coast path, where it was placed into the seal bag & then carried back towards the town. By a happy coincidence, Animal Care Assistant & medic Clare Baker, accompanied by medic Rachael Vine, who deals with Press & Publicity at the Sanctuary, arrived in the car park at just the right moment to be able to prepare to receive the pup for an initial clinical assessment & tube feeding. It was found to have swollen rear flippers, both having open & pus filled wounds & injuries to the nail beds of the front flippers. Surprisingly the temperature was relatively normal. The pup was soon on its way to Gweek for treatment. It was then time to catch up with developments at the other end of St Ives Bay.

9.00 – Sue Sayer, who is both a medic & founder of the Cornwall Seal Group arrived at the rockfall site & along with medics Simon Bone, Kate Hockley met Sue & Trevor Waterhouse, who had begun observations to assess the situation. The two dead seals were lying on the beach with about 20 others who were still in the land of the living. The mother of the pup was seen lying alone under the cliff face very near the rockfall. The animal was not moving, but was seen to be alive. Sue telephoned Area Co-ordinator Dave Jarvis to advise him of what was being seen.

12.00 – Dan & Lesley Jarvis arrived at the cove to relieve Sue & Kate. After about an hour the 'beachmaster' hauled out onto the beach & was showing some interest in the mother, who had still remained in the same location all morning, at which point she moved further up the beach into the cave, so that only her rear flippers were visible & then a short while later disappearing completely from sight.

14.00 – Lesley saw activity around the mouth of the cave, called to Dan to ring Sue Sayer, which resulted in a text message to all concerned 'Pup is alive! The Mum with the pup this pm is definitely Missies mum! YIPPEE'. Which was a pretty satisfactory outcome.

Thanks as ever to the staff at the National Seal Sanctuary, members of the public & BDMLR medics involved in all of the operations.

Dave Jarvis
Cornwall Area Co-ordinator