Saving Shetlands sealife...with your help!

Posted on 21/01/2019 by Guest Blogger

Together we’re protecting seals, otters and turtles in Shetland, Scotland from horrific injuries and deaths caused by ‘ghost gear’– lost and abandoned fishing lines, nets and traps

Your amazing support is helping Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, the only facility that cares for Shetland’s marine life, build their desperately-needed, new seal unit. As of January 2018, they have reached their fundraising goals and are now on their way to build the wildlife sanctuary of their dreams!

Here’s a look at Hillswick’s amazing work in pictures…

Dedicated duo

Meet Jan and Pete Bevington. They rescued Rosie, their first seal pup who they found alone and weak on a Shetland beach, more than 30 years ago. Complete novices to wildlife rescue they asked experts at a sanctuary in Cornwall for advice. Jan and Pete nursed Rosie back to health and after four months she was returned to the wild. Since Rosie, they have rescued hundreds of seals. The new unit will include heat lamps and insulation as well as energy-efficient equipment that will lower the cost of maintaining the best environment for seals.

Plastic peril

Once the plastic netting wraps around the seals, it’s very difficult to get to them. If we try and get to them in the sea, the seals dive and escape. There is nothing we can do until they land on the beach and by that time they are very weak,” says Pete. Over the years he has noticed a sharp increase in the number of seals coming to Hillswick after getting entangled in ghost gear. Sadly, despite Hillswick’s best efforts, the seal shown in this picture did not survive its injury. Around 640,000 tonnes of ghost gear are left in our oceans annually.

Rescuing Ranger

Ranger an otter cub is just one of many that Jan and Pete have looked after this year. He was found with his sibling by workers at a salmon farm who called Hillswick for help. Jan and Pete advised the workers to leave the baby otters overnight in the hopes their mother was nearby and return. In the morning the workers reported that only a very distressed Ranger remained and so Jan and Pete decided to bring him to Hillswick. Now seven months old he is doing well and they expect him to make a successful return to the wild.

Risky business

Even though they may be injured, seals are still powerful animals with sharp teeth and claws. Catching and handling them is very tricky. Jan and Pete catch them by covering them with a blanket, holding them down, wrapping them up and placing them in a crate. They then have volunteers who help them carry the crated seal into a trailer, towed by the quad bike. Both trailer and bike were made possible by World Animal Protection supporter donations. “It’s been a godsend,” says Pete.

Pool patient

Shooglenifty, a young grey seal named after a local Shetland band, was found in a terrible state on a beach in May.  He was very thin, bloody from being battered by the rocks and waves and had having difficulty breathing. Jan and Pete brought him to the safety of Hillswick, kept him warm, gave him medication for lungworm, antibiotics and rehydration fluid. Eventually he was well enough to be moved to Hillswick’s pool and started eating fish with great gusto – as many as 20 a day! He was returned to the sea at the end of July.

"When Alyx from World Animal Protection told us you could help, we were in tears. We couldn’t believe it. Your support and knowing you’re there is essential for animals. Your support helps us stay here" -Pete Bevington