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


2006-01-30 14:44:35

Tar seal from Copinsay Orkney

The island of Copinsay is an uninhabited island of the East Mainland of Orkney. A steep green island dominated by a lighthouse, and a cluster of holms and skerries on its shoreward side.

On Sunday I received a call from a concerned sheep farmer who had been on the island to remove his sheep by boat to the Orkney mainland. While herding the sheep on to a boat they heard the plaintive cries of a seal from a disused roofless farm building. On closer examination they discovered a grey seal pup stuck in tar within the building. The building, at one time, stored wooden barrels of tar and through time the barrels have collapsed and discharged their contents.

On return to the mainland their conscience got the better of them and decided to contact me for help. After several unsuccessful calls to secure a boat to the island today I had to settle for a trip early on Monday morning to rescue the pup from this sticky situation.

Located the seal pup in a disused outbuilding close to the small jetty that was formally used by the lighthouse keepers when the light was manned. Around 30 min to dig the pup out of its road tar trap and then administer some rehydration fluids as she was very dehydrated before returning to the mainland by boat. Have attempted to remove some of the road tar with some success but its going to take several days to get it all removed and the pup on the road to recovery. I am glad to say that at least I didn't have the mass media circus to deal with as well on this very remote island of the North. This is the most extreme case of wildlife pollution that I have witnessed on an individual animal and its ironic that it has happened on a nature reserve owned by one of the UK's largest wildlife organisations. The RSPB have been informed and are taking steps to remove the source of pollution.

Ross Flett
Orkney Seal Rescue