Our way of working

We never just enter an enclosure to care for a seal. We work with strict protocols. Most of the rules and practices we follow are designed to prevent the spread of diseases. But it is also important to give the animals as little stress as possible.

gele bakken schoonmaken vrijwilligers

Equipment

The right equipment is crucial when working with animals that can (potentially) spread diseases to each other. Or to the caretakers! Some diseases can transfer from seals to humans.

Scrubs

In seal care, we wear special work clothes. Here, too, we do not differ from a regular hospital, where you see doctors and nurses walking around in so-called 'scrubs'. Our scrubs are green or blue in color and they are meant to last a lot of (very hot) washes.

Every time we have been in a care unit, we change clothes and put on clean scrubs. Only then are we allowed to go to the fish kitchen or another place. The scrubs are washed very hot after use, because bacteria and viruses die at higher temperatures.

scrubs illustratie

Personal protective equipment

There are bins with personal protective equipment at every care unit. This (often disposable) equipment is intended to protect the nurses from illness or dirt. Vica versa, it also helps to protect the seals against diseases that we can carry. We put these on before we enter the care unit. As soon as we leave the enclosure, we throw them away.

  • Hair net – less dirt in hair, no hair in the seal's enclosure
  • Face mask - do not exhale diseases on the seal, do not inhale diseases from the seal (seals sometimes sneeze in your face)
  • Blue shoes – not literally shoes, reduces transmission of diseases
  • Gloves – reduces transmission of diseases
scrubs en werkwijze beschermingsmiddelen

Rain gear

The seal care nurses also wear rain clothes in the enclosures. These rain pants and boots stay in the units and do not have to be thrown away or washed. The clothes are rinsed after taking them off. Like the other clothes we wear, this is meant to reduce transmission of diseases.

It also allows us to stay a little drier while working with the animals. In addition, it protects us against the teeth of the seals. They can bite hard, so it's nice if a rubber boot or loose rain pants get in the way.

regenkleding voor hygiene

How do we take care of seals?

The seal nurses act in such a way that there is less chance of transmitting diseases and that it causes as little stress as possible for the animals. The seals that come to us are very weak. The intake process is already stressful for them, so we want to avoid stress wherever it is possible. We call it no-stress policy.

Care order in phase 1

The order between care units is very important. We start with the healthiest animals first and the sickest animals last in the care round. We want to prevent the healthier seals from becoming ill just before they are allowed to go outside. In phase 1, there may be very sick animals in one quarantine, while the seals in the quarantine next to it are almost ready for phase 2.

If there is a seal with a virus in the last quarantine, the caretakers must shower and wash their hair before they can go to another enclosure.

Silence and rest

During the care, the nurses hardly talk to each other. It is discussed in advance what needs to be done. But once in the enclosures, it is important that we are as quiet as possible. We also do not make any sudden movements.

Little contact

We ensure that a seal only needs to be caught once. They are wild animals (and predators, too). They do not like to be touched or picked up by humans. That causes them a lot of stress. We try to avoid that as much as possible. Moreover, it is also nicer for the nurses if they only have to catch the seal once: there is a higher chance of being bitten during catching.

However, grabbing a seal is necessary at rehabilitation. For example, to feed or to give medicines. Then we give food, medicine and do a medical check while the animal is held by the nurse. When all is done, the seal is released again.

Hygiene

The best way to prevent the transmission of diseases is to make sure everything is clean. All care units are therefore thoroughly cleaned every day. Not only that, but also the kitchen where the food is prepared, the corridors through which the nurses walk, the clothing and equipment are regularly cleaned.

Moving together

Seals that are in an enclosure together are not moved to a new enclosure until they are all ready to move on to the next stage. This way we know for sure that they cannot bring any illnesses from a sick(er) roommate to the new pool. The care unit where the seals used to be is then completely empty and can be cleaned and disinfected for the next patients.

Materials

Each unit has its own materials for the caretakers. Think of:

  • Rain gear
  • Protective equipment
  • Cleaning products
  • Buckets
  • Brooms and squeegees
  • Towels

All these materials are disinfected after each use and reused as much as possible. In this way we ensure that every place has clean material to work with and we also reduce the amount of waste.

Training

All employees and volunteers undergo extensive training before they start their work in seal care. It is important that they know how to handle these animals. Seals are predators, so they can bite! But in addition, the hygiene protocols and guidelines are essential to the training. Each care unit also has an overview of the protocols that apply there.

Visitors

Visitors do not have access to the care units. They can view the phase 1 enclosures from behind glass, and the phase 2 and phase 3 pools can be viewed from a distance. Visitors don't have to follow the same hygiene rules as we do, because they don't get close enough to the seals.

Pets

It is strictly forbidden to bring pets to the Sealcentre. There are a number of diseases that transmit very easily from seals to other animals and vice versa. These kinds of diseases are called zoonoses.

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