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Archive for Friday, January 13, 2012

Nursery cares for orphaned seal pups

January 13, 2012

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AMSTERDAM — Storms that have lashed the Dutch coast this year have created a wave of orphaned baby seals — some so young their umbilical cords are still attached — wrenched from their mothers and washed up on beaches and dikes.

An existing seal nursery near the northern city of Groningen has been so inundated with pups and older seals in recent weeks it has erected a temporary tent to house them in tanks and baths while they are nurtured back to health. They will eventually be returned to the wild.

Storms and high tides create problems for seals because the sand banks where they bask remain underwater, said Lenie ‘t Hart, who founded the nursery formally known as the Seal Rehabilitation and Research Center.

American volunteer Torrey Utne, of Boston, Massachusetts, said Thursday that in the last 10 days, more than 100 seals have been brought to the center for treatment and it now houses some 350 of the marine mammals.

Many of them are young pups known as “screamers” for their high-pitched whining.

“They are little babies missing their moms pretty much, so it sounds like babies crying,” said 23-year-old Utne, who has been working at the nursery since late last year.

In November, there were around 140 seals at the nursery, Utne said. “But since then, the numbers have exploded.”

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