Deep Pool Brought About By Napoli Gets Seal Of Approval’ Approaching Anniversary Of Spill

PUBLISHED: 15:52 15 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:12 17 June 2010

A NEW RSPCA deep water pool which was identified as been necessary to rehabilitate oiled birds following the Napoli disaster in January 2007 has been christened by its first residents – two grey seals. Staff at the RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Rehabilitation

A NEW RSPCA deep water pool which was identified as been necessary to rehabilitate oiled birds following the Napoli disaster in January 2007 has been christened by its first residents - two grey seals.

Staff at the RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, near Taunton, which receives no Government funding, were overjoyed that 'The Friends of West Hatch'* and RSPCA Poole Branch have funded a deep water pool. This will help ensure birds brought in for cleaning after being caught in oil spills are totally fit and waterproof before their release.

The pool was built specifically for oiled birds and was completed last year but it is now being enjoyed by its first swimmers - two young female grey seals, known as Emily and Ellie.

The deep-water pool, which is 1.8 metres deep, is ideal for them to practise natural behaviour such as diving for fish and snoozing at the bottom.

RSPCA West Hatch wildlife supervisor, Shawn Clements, said: "The deep water pool will be a real asset for oiled birds, but luckily we do not have any in at the moment so the pool is being used for the first time by two grey seals.

"The pool allows the seal pups to learn normal behaviour and as they are very food orientated we will be able to coax them out of the deep water with fish when required."

Ellie was brought into West Hatch on 12 November 2008 after she was found on the beach at Portland, Dorset, less than a month old. She was underweight (weighing 11.61kg - when the average birth weight is 13kg) and had lost her mother and was starving. She had numerous infected wounds but has since made a good recovery and weighs in at a healthy 31.85kg.

Emily was taken to West Hatch on 5 December 2008 after being found near Port Gaverne, North Cornwall. She was an orphan who was about three weeks old at the time and was suffering from trauma and puncture wounds to her skin.

She was very sick on arrival and it was touch and go as to whether she would survive. But with careful monitoring and hand-feeding Emily has fully recovered and gone from 17.65kg on arrival to a healthy 25.5kg.

Both seals were initially fed a liquid 'fish soup' via a tube, given antibiotics and then progressed to being hand fed fish by a member of staff but are now happily feeding themselves.

They are good healthy pups displaying natural behaviour and about a fortnight they will be transferred to the Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall, where they will stay until they reach a weight of 40kg and they will then be released with a group.

The MSC Napoli oil spill disaster off the Devon coast on 18 January 2007 highlighted the need for a new deep pool at the centre, after the 62,000 tonne ship ran aground and leaked around 200 tonnes of light fuel oil into the sea, devastating sea bird populations.

In the two weeks following the spill, almost 1000 oiled birds were admitted to West Hatch. Because of the large volume of oiled birds coming in, 300 of them had to be transferred to other RSPCA wildlife centres.


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