The Seal Project have responded to concerns following a video on social media showing a seal being approached and photographed by people on a Torquay beach.
Both adults and children are seen in touching distance of the pregnant seal on Oddicombe beach.
In a statement post on Facebook, The Seal Project said:
Information regarding a video posted 07/08/2019 of a grey seal on a beach interacting with people near Torquay.
Firstly, thank you all for your concerns regarding this scenario. We have been inundated with queries and comments. For this reason, we would like to offer some information. There has been much speculation as to whether this is natural wild behavior for a grey seal or ‘normal’ for this area. We are concerned with what we have observed. The reasons for this are as follows;
1. This individual seal is a wild mature pregnant female grey seal. She is known to us and we have many years of documented data on her as she spends many months in this region each year. She is habituated to humans through years of handfeeding and close proximity to human activity. This is a bad thing. This behavior is now her ‘normal’. This is not normal behavior for a wild seal. She relies on humans and interacts daily often being surrounded by groups of swimmers, anglers and visitors. Unfortunately, her learnt behavior is now most likely going to be for life. Many aspects of her welfare are affected by this.
2. In this video the seal was lured out of the water by people offering her food (dead fish in this case). Hand feeding is bad for all wildlife, especially seals. Seals are prolific hunters that predate live prey. They do not need assistance with this. Let them catch their own food. Please do not feed the seals.
3. Flash photography was used at close range to the wild animal. This may stress the individual and this may lead to unpredictable behavior and someone could get hurt. Especially when a wild animal is surrounded….
4. Do not surround a wild animal. Blocking escape routes will stress the individual further. This may trigger a flight or fight response. You don’t want to be near a wild grey seal when that happens. They are very strong and very fast. Please give wildlife space.
5. In this video there were several people within touching distance of the wild animal. Please keep your distance. This is for the safety of both the seal and the humans. Please remember, give wildlife space, be kind. We do not need to get close to wild seals. When people do this, it is often because of the needs and wants of the human. Wild seals do not need to be close to humans. Please consider the needs of the animal.
6. Wild encounters can be amazing experiences if they remain on the animal’s terms. It is not safe to encourage children to approach wild seals. Children do not always know the risks involved, which is why we must endeavor to safeguard them. Any injury caused by forcing interaction with wild seals can be a very serious situation. There are several potential zoonotic diseases which may be passed on to humans from wild animals. Please give wildlife space.
We are very fortunate to live in a region frequented by a transient population of grey seals. Grey seals pass through Torbay throughout the year. There will be varying numbers at different times due to predictable natural wild behavior patterns. This show us our waters are thriving and in good condition. Grey seal numbers in the UK are still a concern and grey seals are a protected globally rare species. There are more African elephants in the wild than there are grey seals in the wild.
Please support us in protecting our special visitors.
The Seal Project can be visited here.
To view the video, click here
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