Malnourished seal pup named Atria is rescued from Binnion Beach in Inishowen

A malnourished grey seal pup, named Atria, has been rescued after being found on a beach in Inishowen.

Atria, pictured on Binnion Beach where she was found on Monday.
Atria, pictured on Binnion Beach where she was found on Monday.

The pup, a female, is estimated to be between three and four weeks old and was found on Binnion Beach in Clonmany.

Her front and back flippers are still covered in white lanugo fur, ‘like little slippers and socks.’

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The rescue operation began after a member of the public spotted the baby seal on  Monday morning and contacted Seal Rescue Ireland.

Atria pictured at the Seal Rescue Ireland headquarters where she is being cared for. Pictures: Seal Rescue Ireland.

The organisation’s volunteers went to the scene and rescued the pup with the aid of the local community.

Melanie Croce of Seal Rescue Ireland told the Journal how it is late in the season to see such young seal pups.

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”They are mostly born around November time, so this baby was way outside normal season. They moultat around three to four weeks and as it still has some of its white fur on its fins, we can tell by looking at her that she’s around this age. She’s very skinny and emaciated. They should normally be around 50 kilos at three to four weeks.”

Atria only weighed 10.65kg - even lower than the average 15kg at birth - so is dangerously underweight.

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Melanie added how they have reason to believe she may have been orphaned.

“When they still have the fluffy white coat they remain on land. Ideally their mothers come in and out and feed them. As this pup is so skinny, we think she must have been orphaned.”

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Seal Rescue Ireland co-ordinated with their local volunteers to rescue the pup and she was transported to their headquarters in Wexford on Monday night, where she was given her name. The next few days are crucial to Atria’s recovery and she has a long road ahead. If she gets to 35kg she will then be ready to be released back to sea.

Melanie stressed that anyone who finds a seal pup should not approach it and should check if the mother is in sight.

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“Many times, the mother isn’t far away and is watching. If someone approaches the pup, it can scare the mother away and it is then abandoned. We ask people to stay at least 100m away and keep dogs on lead. If a dog attacks a seal, it may bite back.”

If anyone has concerns regarding a seal, they can call Seal Rescue Ireland on the Rescue Hotline (00353 871955393) The hotline is 24 hours and calls will be answered at all times. You will be asked to give a description of the seal and send photos. Seal Rescue Ireland will then coordinate with local volunteers.There has been an increase in both deadseals reported and seal rescues in 2020 and into early 2021. Melanie said this could be due to increased storms and climate change, as well as the fact more people are at home and on beaches due to lockdown.

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Seal Rescue Ireland is always recruiting new volunteers to be trained as part of their rescue network, and are seeking volunteers in the Donegal area in particular. There are lots of calls for seals from that area, but they do not currently have a huge amount of trained volunteers there as of yet. If anyone is interested in joining their efforts, information on how to join an upcoming training session can be found on the website: https://www.sealrescueireland.org/rescue-network-volunteering/.