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From selfies to throwing stones, seal pups find nowhere to rest

Sealcentre Pieterburen has experienced far too many cases of disturbed seal pups in the past two weeks. In the past few weeks, 33 seal pups have been taken care of at seal centre Pieterburen. Of these, 10, a third of all cases, arguably ended up at the centre due to actions by the public. The centre stresses again that due to the Seal Agreement signed in 2020, this is strictly forbidden.

Laatst geupdate op 01-08-2023

The Sealcentre Pieterburen is sounding the alarm over the large number of disturbed seal pups it has had to take in so far. The centre has taken in 33 pups in a short period of time this season, of which as many as 10 cases, actions by bystanders were the direct reason for taking in. In comparison, 2022 saw 19 animals rehabilitated respectively, 3 of them due to disturbance. Probably this year, the warm weather played a part in the fact that there were more people on the beaches, but their behaviour of some people around seals left a lot to be desired. This ranges from taking selfies, petting seals, letting pets get close, to even throwing stones at the animals. This disturbance causes the mother not to return, leaving the helpless pup alone. Left unattended, it is likely to die.

"From an animal welfare perspective, the Sealcentre Pieterburen finds this particularly harmful"

Niek Kuizenga.

Danger to humans and animals

Moreover, touching seals, even small pups, is actually not without danger. They are the largest predators in the Netherlands. Seals have a powerful bite that can lead to severe inflammation in humans. A seal bite has to be treated with special antibiotics. In two cases, pups were placed in the arms of children for a photo. A big risk for both humans and animals.

Seal Agreement

On 4 June 2020, the Seal Agreement was signed and became effective. This agreement aims to prevent the rehabilitation of seals by increasing the use of observation and relocation. For example, it is common for pups to spend hours alone when the mother is out hunting. This has also emerged from previous behavioural research on seals (mothers) in the Dollard. Pups sometimes lie alone for up to 8 hours, with no ill effects. So a pup lying alone is not always in distress and should be left alone. Finally, the agreement also states that for the animal's safety, as well as that of humans, it is forbidden to take action on their own. Only certified seal guards are allowed to do so and are in close contact with the centre in whose area they operate. It is up to the rehabilitation centres to decide whether a seal should be taken in or not.