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So, what do all the seals at Seal Rescue Ireland get up to over Christmas?

They’re the only dedicated seal rehab centre in the Republic of Ireland.
Dec 25th 2018, 2:01 PM 2,948 0

FOR MANY, DECEMBER 25th is a day of rest; a day of turkey eating, pyjama-wearing and Harry Potter-watching.

For others, it’s just a normal working day. Hotels stay running, hotlines stay manned and news has to be filed.

… But what do these cuties at Seal Rescue Ireland in Courtown Harbour get up to over the festive period?

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Tofu being a little cutie

A post shared by Seal Rescue Ireland (@sealrescueireland) on

“Christmas Day is a little different than normal,” executive director Melanie Croce tells DailyEdge.ie. “This is the only day of the year that we are closed to the public as our hard working full time volunteer staff must be here to care for the seals year round, regardless of holidays!

Christmas is a quieter day for the seals as there are no visitors. Between feeds they tend to just lounge around on their heat mats or swim around in their baths.”

If you hadn’t guessed, Seal Rescue Ireland help save orphaned, sick and injured Common and Grey seal pups. They’re usually the first to the scene when a member of the public puts in a call. Their motto is “rescue, rehabilitate, release”.

Through numerous methods, Seal Rescue Ireland feed the seals before teaching them how to feed themselves, until they reach their target weight for releasing into the wild.

“Our seals who don’t know how to eat on their own yet will be getting fish soup which is a blend of Herring, electrolyte solution, and salmon oil,” Melanie says. “The seals who know how to eat whole fish, will be enjoying their staple diet: whole herring.
“Not the type of Christmas dinner I’d choose myself, but the seal pups love Herring as its a very fatty fish that helps them put on lots of insulating blubber!”
This is Melanie’s second Christmas working at Seal Rescue Ireland – last year, they took a record number of seals into care due to consistent heavy storms throughout the grey seal pupping season.
 
“Since Seal Rescue Ireland is the only seal rehab centre in the Republic of Ireland, our hospital was stretched beyond capacity to care for all the seals we could take in, therefore Christmas day our staff enjoyed being closed to the public to get a bit of extra rest!” she explains.

She became involved with the rescue when she came to Ireland on holiday after her stint working as a wildlife biologist on an oil spill response came to an end. She stumbled upon the sanctuary when one guy in particular caught her eye – Toby, a premature common seal pup.

“I applied for an internship position right then and there,” she says. “After being brought on and completing a three month internship, I moved on to do other wildlife work around the world, but was invited to come back to Ireland as Operations Manager three years later. I’ve been here ever since!”

Day-to-day, the volunteers at Seal Rescue Ireland work at cleaning out the kennels, pools and hospital areas, feeding all the seals, prepping and administering medications, weighing the seals to track their development and progress, and ensure their comfort and safety. They also teach at “fish school” where, you’ve guessed it, the teach the seals how to eat fish.

There’s also daily tours of the rescue, offering insights into the importance of environmental conservation when it comes to seal welfare. Then, there’s all the fundraising that has to be done so that they can keep doing what they do. 

“It’s hard work but we love what we do!” Melanie admits.

You might be wondering why there seems to be an awful lot of seals with food-related names – like Walnut here.

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Walnut enjoying the autumn weather

A post shared by Seal Rescue Ireland (@sealrescueireland) on

“Every year we have a name theme and this year it is ‘Foods of the World’,” Melanie explains. “Our interns – the rescue’s dedicated staff who come from across the world to volunteer full time for a minimum of 3 months – get the honour of naming the seals.

“Whoever successfully completes the arduous task of coordinating the rescue and transport of a seal from across the country to our centre in Courtown gets to name that seal.

We’ve had a lot of good ones so far this year like Pudding, Egg, Sesame, and the list goes on!”

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Ketchup relaxing in her new home.

A post shared by Seal Rescue Ireland (@sealrescueireland) on

Unfortunately, Santa never gets a chance to visit the seals on his travels (boooo!), which is why they rely on the public for donations.

“Luckily we do receive public donations to help our seals during the holiday season, and year round. With out these supporters we wouldn’t be able to continue our work!” Melanie says.
You can donate to Seal Rescue Ireland by clicking here.

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Fionnuala Jones

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