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


2006-10-15 12:51:34

Pup plays hide and seek with rescuers, Cornwall

At 1000hrs on Saturday morning, Coordinator Dave Jarvis received a call from RNLI Lifeguard/Medic Ben Gardiner about a seal pup hauled out at the Penhale end of Perranporth beach, having originally been seen by a member of the public at 0830hrs. The Animal Care Team at the National Seal Sanctuary were informed while Dave and Medics Dan Jarvis and Amanda Foreman attended and walked the large beach (3 miles), finding only the haulout trail of the pup coming a few yards out of the water before turning round and going back in again. With no luck locating it, they returned home. As the weather was fair and the surf very big (about 10ft) the beach was very busy with walkers, dogs and surfers it seemed likely the pup had come out to rest, but had been disturbed back into the water.

Dave had another call at 1400hrs to advise that the pup had returned and was again sitting in the shallows looking tired about halfway down the beach. Dave and Dan, this time with Medic Lesley Jarvis, went up to walk the beach, but again the pup had disappeared back into the water. While on the beach, Dave took a call from RSPCA Animal Collection Officer Felicity Cross at 1500hrs asking for assistance relaying a pup to the Sanctuary. The pup was coming down from Dorset, so we met another RSPCA ACO at Bodmin to pick up the pup from him to take in for rehabilitation, where it was named Narla. While there, Dave had a third call about the pup at Perranporth from the RSPCA, who were able to get a camera phone picture sent to him before it went back out to sea. This time it was a little further down the beach from the afternoon. As it was now getting dark, it was hoped that the pup would at least be able to come out during the evening to have a proper rest without being disturbed, but Dave sent a message to Ben to ask him to check just in case.

At 0930hrs on Sunday morning the Cornwall Wildlife Trust contacted Dave to advise that the pup was once again on the beach, so he once more got in touch with Ben to ask him to check the beach, but there was no apparent sign of it. The group had also received a booking for a dolphin rescue demonstration from Hayle Surf Life Saving Club for that morning, so Tim Bain, Phil and Dan Jarvis, Jess Maynard, Simon Bone, Jan and Olivia Egan and family duly attended, which was very successful and well attended by several dozen members and other onlookers. However, while packing up the equipment, Tim had a message from Dave to advise that the Wildlife Trust had alerted him to a turtle trapped in a pot rope at Holywell Bay, which in the end turned out to be a weed-covered buoy, much to the amusement of HQ contact and Director Tony Woodley and everyone assisting with the BDMLR stand at the Birmingham Dive Show!

Returning to our cars, we decided to have lunch at The Watering Hole, a pub on Perranporth beach, just in case the pup came back. Finally our luck was in as not only did we manage to finish lunch, but also we were able to get lift halfway up the beach with Ben in a lifeguard truck to where the pup was now sitting in the shallows again with a small crowd. The pup still appeared exhausted, and as it was out in the water it was difficult to assess, so Ben and Dan drove back to the car park to retrieve the seal cage while the others kept watch over the pup.

Upon returning, it was decided to herd the pup into shallower water using one of the lifeguards’ rescue surfboards, a foam floatation device and a towel and managed to get it into the cage where it could be taken to a safe location away from the water and properly assessed. Besides being exhausted, the fully moulted pup appeared to be a good weight, but had been notably quiet and docile. Its temperature was taken, which was high at 38.5C. There were two options for the pup - rehabilitation or relocation to a much quieter beach, so while awaiting a call back from the ACT at the Sanctuary we removed the pup from the beach.

As the Sanctuary was full, it was decided that the pup would have to be held overnight in Medic Sue Sayer's shower room. Simon Bone, Dave and Lesley met Tim and the others at Sue’s house where it was tube fed fluids and its temperature was taken again – down to around 38C, but it remained quiet. Following further discussions with Senior Animal Care Assistant Tamara Cooper, it was decided the pup would need to be tubed and its temperature taken again at 9pm and midnight, but since its temperature was high so she would also come over and give it antibiotic injections. Sue monitored the pup for the rest of the night and noted its breathing rates, which on a few occasions were much higher than the levels given in the BDMLR Medic Handbook.

At 2100hrs Tim and Dan found the pup's temperature was over 39C and an old bite wound on its left foreflipper was oozing yellowish pus, which was squeezed out. Tamara and Medic Chris Ellis came over to give it injections and squeezed out even more pus from the wound. By midnight the high temperature had come down and the pup was finally looking more active compared to earlier.

The next day space was made in the Sanctuary's Hospital to allow the pup to come in. Tim tube fed it one more time at 1000hrs before it was transported there, where it was named Simba.

A big thank you to everyone involved in this exhausting game of cat and mouse, especially the Perranporth lifeguards who assisted with monitoring, transport and the actual rescue, and Sue Sayer for the use of her shower room as a temporary pen (again!).

Dave Jarvis
Coordinator BDMLR Cornwall