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Silver lining from attempted seal-pup rescue on Achill


STRANDED PUP This young seal was found worming her way towards the road at Keel Beach. (Pic: Still from a video taken by John Nikolai, Achill.)


Cory Kilbane

A group of locals from Achill Island attempted to rescue a seal pup that washed up on the rocks of Keel Beach, Achill, the weekend before last.
The pup was high up on the stoney shore, making its way towards the road at the eastern end of the beach, when it was discovered by John Nikolai, a New York native who lives on Achill Island. The seal, it turned out, was in trouble.
“I walk my dog on Keel beach everyday, and I just looked up at the rocks and I saw something moving. I went for a look and discovered a baby seal,” John Nikolai told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday).
John sent a message to a WhatsApp Group that was setup by locals concerned about seal strandings such as this one, which have unfortunately happened often this year.
“Sorsha Kennedy (from Achill) contacted the Seal Rescue Centre in Wexford, and I sent them on photos of the seal. They told us that if we could sort transport and get the seal to Courtown in Wexford they would take her,” he explained.
“Sorsha’s husband Mick came by an hour later with a container to put the seal in, and someone who was going to Dublin agreed to take the seal with them.”
Despite all the good will and everyone’s best efforts, the young seal didn’t make it, and he died before reaching the centre.
“It’s a terribly long stressful journey for an animal already in distress,“ John told The Mayo News, adding: “It’s such a pity there isn’t another sanctuary closer in the west.”

However, the incident is not without a silver lining. A team from Seal Rescue Ireland will travel to Achill in January to train the local group on potential life-saving measures to boost stranded seals’ chances of survival.
John and the others involved took exactly the right action in this situation, but it’s also important to educate people that not every seal on a beach or rock needs rescuing.   
Sorsha Kennedy, who was involved in the attempted rescue of the seal, said, “We’ve been getting seals in here over the years and it is perfectly normal for the seals to be on the shore.
“We’re getting these trainers down just so people know what to do in these situations. It’s okay for them to be on the shore, they may just be resting, but people don’t know that.
“I was hoping to get a few people to come to the training – somebody from the lifeguard, a gang of us who walk the beach everyday, somebody from the wildlife services and even one or two vets from the west,” she explained.
“The only rescue centre for seals in the country is in Courtown at the moment, so it’s a good five- or six-hour drive from here. We just want to get the word out there in regard to what to do when you see them,” she added.
The training will take place on January 21 and will run over a period of two days.

Seal Rescue Ireland urges members of the public not to encourage seal pups back into the water and not to pick them up. Most of the pups are fine and are just resting.
The organisation also warns that the seals will bite, and that people should keep their distance from them.
If you do come across a seal pup, the best thing to do is contact Seal Rescue Ireland on 087 1955393 and send them pictures so they can assess the situation. For more information, visit Seal Rescue Ireland's website, www.sealrescueireland.org or their Facebook page.