At Sealcentre Pieterburen, we strive to ensure the health of seals both in the wild and in rehabilitation. To that end, we conduct scientific research into wild seals, and our process in the rehabilitation centre. The results of this research translate to more insight into the behaviour of wild seals, the state of their ecosystem, and how their problems can be prevented. Should problems with the seals occur, our latest insights into veterinary medicine allow us to offer them the best possible care. We share all of these insights with our colleagues across the world, so that they may be beneficial to seals and the sea elsewhere.

Recent scientific research

Why do seal pups cry?

Why do seal pups cry?

Postdoctoral research into vocal learning in animals

Grey seals and Common seals are apparently part of a very specific group of animals. Animals that, just like humans, have the ability to develop their voice over the course of their life. This phenomenon is called ‘vocal learning’. Other animals that possess this ability are parrots, passerine birds, and bats. An extraordinary example of vocal learning in seals is a seal called Hoover, who was kept in Boston’s New England Aquarium. Hoover was raised by humans and learned to copy human speech. Andrea Ravignani did his postdoctoral research at the Sealcentre and investigated the ‘crying’ of seal pups.

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 Antibiotic resistance in the Wadden Sea

Antibiotic resistance in the Wadden Sea

The seal as bioindicator for antibiotic resistance

There is a growing awareness worldwide that the increasing resistance to antibiotics in ecosystems can damage the health of humans and animals alike. These past years, hundreds of seal pups that were rehabilitated in Sealcentre Pieterburen have been checked for antibiotic resistant bacteria. Ana Rubio Garcia, Head Veterinarian at Sealcentre Pieterburen, does this as a part of her PhD research into the microbiome of seals. A microbiome comprises the complete collection of microorganisms that occur in an animal, including the antibiotic resistant varieties.

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The Phocine Distemper Virus

The Phocine Distemper Virus

Viruses remain a threat to seals

In 2015, a bird flu variant reached the seal population in the Netherlands, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of seals. Over fifteen years ago, an outbreak of the PDV virus (seal virus), lead to thousands of dead seals washing up on the Dutch coast. This virus has been shown to recur every fifteen or so years. Thus far, PDV outbreaks occurred in 1988 and 2002. Research conducted by the Sealcentre in collaboration with Erasmus MC and the Veterinary University of Hannover has shown that the population is once again susceptible to an outbreak.

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Seal pups need rest, not rehabilitation

Seal pups need rest, not rehabilitation

Seal pups need rest, not rehabilitation

For years, unique research has been conducted into the behaviour of seals; seal pups and their mothers in particular. The department Behavioural Biology of the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences at the University of Groningen worked together with Sealcentre Pieterburen to present the first results of this research. Among other things, it shows that seal pups can be without their mother for far longer than was previously assumed. This has important consequences for the current practices in seal rehabilitation.

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