Funding for seal rescue unit at Shetland Sanctuary - Veterinary Practice
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Funding for seal rescue unit at Shetland Sanctuary

Seals increasingly suffering injuries through lost fishing nets and lines, known as ghost gear

Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary on the Shetland Islands is to receive £25,000 from World Animal Protection to modernise its aging seal unit where rescued seals recover from injuries and illnesses. The new unit will include heat lamps and insulation and will improve the chances of rescued seals surviving and being released successfully.

Threats to seals include an increase in the number being treated for injuries from lost fishing nets and lines, known as ghost gear, which can wrap around the animal’s neck and flippers, tightening and cutting into their skin as they grow.

In July the sanctuary was called out to two reports of seals caught in ghost gear in one day, with one seal unfortunately dying after being caught in just 24 grams of plastic netting. Ghost gear is one of the biggest threats to marine wildlife and kills and injures more 136,000 seals and other marine animals each year.

The original seal unit at Hillswick was built in a hurry in 1993 to house seals affected by a devastating oil spill. It has been treating sick, injured and abandoned seals since but now requires modernisation to ensure the seals are given the best chances of survival. As well as heating and insulation the unit will feature energy efficient equipment that will lower the cost of maintaining the best environment for seals.

As well as the threat from ghost gear, numbers of common seals in Shetland have halved in 20 years, with the sanctuary witnessing common seals physically weaker and of a reduced size and number.

Jan and Pete, Founders of Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary said, “Thanks to the support of World Animal Protection we can keep going rescuing and saving seals and other marine animals. We see seals with horrific injuries from ghost gear and other illnesses and the new seal unit will allow us to rescue and rehabilitate more seals for years to come.”

Peter Kemple Hardy, World Animal Protection campaigns manager said, “Jan and Pete have been doing some excellent work over the years caring for the beautiful wildlife in the Shetland Islands and we are delighted to support them. Ghost gear is increasingly a threat, especially to seals because of their playful and inquisitive nature, but we hope the great work on the ground from people such as Jan and Pete will make a difference and help stop their unnecessary suffering.”

World Animal Protection also provided a quad bike and trailer for Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary in 2014 which enables them to rescue the seals from the beach and bring them back to the sanctuary for rehabilitation.

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