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Lenie 't Hart

The name Lenie 't Hart is inseparably linked to Seal Centre Pieterburen. She started with a washtub dug into her garden. Nobody could have predicted that this tub would eventually grow into the most specialised seal hospital in Europe. However, she is currently no longer involved with the centre. We would like to take you through what she created, how she achieved that, and why we are where we are now.

Lenie 't Hart met zeehonden

Boundless advocacy for animals

Lenie ’t Hart — née Leentje Godlieb — took over seal rehabilitation from the family Wentzel. Lenie used the knowledge they had built up during the first years of rescuing seals to bring seal rehabilitation to Pieterburen. She did this alone and let nothing get in her way when it came to animal advocacy.

She managed to build the seal centre by working with people who shared her motivation, knowledge, and passion for seals and the Wadden Sea. During this effort, she always stressed that seals be seen as wild animals. And that we, as human beings, should take responsibility for the suffering we cause them.

Pieterburen on the map

Her mission and her drive to succeed were unprecedented. This quickly made her and the village of Pieterburen famous throughout the Netherlands. Pieterburen could no longer be separated from seal rehabilitation.

Lenie put the village of Pieterburen on the map, and brought attention to the plight of seals. This was important, because there were only a few hundred seals left in the Netherlands. Centuries of hunting led to dwindling numbers of seals in Dutch waters. In addition, they were seriously threatened by chemical pollution and the disappearance of their habitat.

De zeehondenopvang in 1973

Loeskus the seal

In December 1971, Lenie rehabilitated the first seal in Pieterburen. This common seal (Phoca vitulina) came earlier than expected. She had not expected having to take in seal pups before the spring of 1972. Still, she picked up the seal, brought it back to Pieterburen in the back of her car and took care of it. She named the seal "Loeskus", after a niece of hers. From that moment on, seal rehabilitation in Pieterburen was a thing. It was also from then on, that all rehabilitated seals would be given a name.

Zeehondenopvang van vroeger

“It’s a beautiful day” – Queen


Lenie saw the importance of connecting influential people to her work. She had soon gathered a network of experts and policymakers around her. For example, many ministers, members of the royal family, scientists, and celebrities were involved.

Another, world-famous example of influential people being involved was the rock band Queen. They made the song "It's a beautiful day" available for a commercial for the centre, free of charge. Queen had never made their music available for free before. These people all contributed to the recovery of the seals in rehabilitation and thus to the recovery of the seal as a species in the Netherlands.

At the ready for seals in need

Lenie and her team were ready for seals in need every hour of the day, no matter where the seal was found. The centre has always been able to do this with financial support from the public. There was (and still is) no support from the government, so all of this work was done voluntarily.

Neither the caretakers nor Lenie were paid for their efforts. Thankfully, many people wanted to contribute. After a major outbreak of the seal virus in 1988, people from all over the world came to Pieterburen to help. To this day, international volunteers are one of the main reasons that the Seal Centre still exists and operates.

Seal hospital

The future of the centre

Lenie 't Hart is no longer involved in the work of the Sealcentre. She stopped working at the centre in 2014 due to longstanding differences of opinion. However, much of the work she had started was continued and even expanded. The international volunteers receive an entire curriculum, there are collaborations with various (international) researchers and universities and the centre can still count on the support of the public. We are incredibly grateful for this.

Above all, the care for the seals continues to improve. Both inside the centre and outside on the beach. Because the future of the centre takes place far outside of Pieterburen. We are increasingly more active on the coast and in the sea to prevent seals from getting into trouble. If seals do not encounter problems, they have no need for rehabilitation.