Signed, sealed… delivered! Seal pup who was found severely injured on a beach is transported to safety in 400-mile mercy dash
- Baby harbour seal was found on a beach by dog walkers in Roker, Sunderland
- She was a forlorn sight and weighed just 27lb – half the weight she should be
- The sanctuary that she was taken to was full of grey seals who attack weak pups
- She has been sent hundreds of miles to get the treatment she needs to survive
If this baby seal looks as cute as a button now, it’s only thanks to a military-style rescue operation to transport her 400 miles to safety.
Dangerously underweight and with severe bite wounds inflicted in attacks by adult grey seals, the baby harbour seal was a forlorn sight when dog walkers came across her on a beach.
But with her huge eyes and mournful expression, the five-month-old pup captured the hearts of rescuers, who named her Vera.
The baby harbour seal was a forlorn sight when dog walkers came across her on a beach in Sunderland
Found last month at Roker, Sunderland, she weighed just 27lb – half the weight she should be, and was taken to Tynemouth Seal Hospital.
But the sanctuary was full of grey seals that are known to attack weak or helpless pups, so a daring plan was hatched to give her the specialist treatment she needed to survive.
Unfortunately, the only other place with the capacity and skill to look after Vera – named after the TV detective Vera Stanhope, played by Brenda Blethyn, who was filming the ITV series nearby – was hundreds of miles away in Hastings, East Sussex.
Ticket to ride: Vera waits at Leeds Bradford Airport. A daring plan was hatched to give her the specialist treatment she needed to survive
Waving herself off: She’s carried to the aeroplane. The only other place that could look after Vera was hundreds of miles away in Hastings, East Sussex
Pup, pup and away: Pilots Ian Leech and Graham Mountford
Seal of approval: The pup enjoys her flight
Because heavy fog meant she couldn’t be flown from Newcastle, Vera was driven 95 miles to Leeds Bradford Airport, where she was loaded on to a small plane in a special crate to keep her hydrated and warm for the one-and-a-half-hour, 275-mile flight to Lydd Airport in Kent in ‘challenging weather conditions’.
But she was oblivious to the turbulence. Pilot Graham Mountford, part of the volunteer rescue team along with co-pilot Ian Leech, said: ‘She wasn’t a regular passenger, certainly – very smelly. But she seemed to take it in her stride.’
The pup was then driven the 24 miles to Mallydams Wood RSPCA centre in Hastings, where she is slowly gaining weight on a diet of fresh fish.
She must grow to 55lb before she can be released back into the sea in a few months.
She is also on a course of antibiotics and basks under a heat lamp.
Marine biologist Dan Jarvis, of British Divers Marine Life Rescue charity, which organised and paid for the mercy flight, said Vera’s low weight and injuries ‘meant her life was in danger’, adding: ‘Getting Vera to safety was a real team effort. She’ll be tagged before returning to the wild so we’ll be able to track her progress.’
Touchdown: Arriving at Lydd Airport in Kent
Going swimmingly: Looking sleek, Vera is putting on weight in Hastings
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