Orkney is one of the most important breeding sites of two species of seal, the Common seal and the Grey seal. They are often found basking on many of Orkney’s shores and they face an array of environmental pressures in their struggle for survival.
Seals are locally known as Selkies and legends which originated in the Orkney Isles will tell of seals which can transform themselves to humans.
Orkney Seal Rescue
Seals face many dangers, often as a result of human activities. Many suffer injury due to discarded fishing nets & rubbish, illness due to polluted seas
and starvation due to over-fishing.
Orkney Seal Rescue is based on the Island of South Ronaldsay. They provide a valuable service protecting seals, rescuing and caring for sick, injured and abandoned animals.
They are a registered charity which were founded in 1988 to cope with a virus which killed over 18,000 common seals.Fighting to save seals and raise awareness to their plight, Orkney Seal Rescue rely on public support and business sponsorship.
Seals are intelligent, warm-blooded creatures that spend most of their lives at sea, coming ashore only to bask, breed and moult. Seals may look slow and clumsy on land but in the vast ocean, they are swift and graceful swimmers. Their streamlined bodies slice through the water with ease as they catch fish, whilst a thick layer of fat (blubber) and a covering of dense fur ensures they keep warm in the cold sea.
Seals are well adapted to life at sea and their flippers are perfectly shaped to propel and steer. When you see a seal ‘flying’ through the water, it becomes clear why the group of animals to which the seal belongs are known as ‘pinnipeds’, which means winged feet.
Seals breathe air, but can dive for up to an hour, reaching depths of up to 500m. They carry three times as much oxygen in their blood as a similarly sized land mammal.
As formidable hunters, their large eyes ensure superb vision under water, even in poor light. Acute hearing allows them to pinpoint prey and their ears have adapted to allow them to hear well under water.
Sensitive whiskers detect vibrations of moving prey in the water, so that even blind seals have been known to survive in the wild. When diving, a seal shuts its nostrils, and strong throat muscles prevent water from entering their wind pipe, this allows them to feed underwater.
Among seals’ favourite foods are sand eels, cod and smiths. Both grey and common seals eat a variety of prey including shellfish, squid and octopus. Their diet is determined by the availability of prey species in any given area. During mating and pepping seasons, grey seal bulls and cows do not feed, losing up to 25% of their body weight.
What to do if you think you find a Seal in trouble
Keep a safe distance and don’t touch. Seals have sharp teeth and may bite if they feel threatened.
Try to ensure the seal is safe.
- Is it thin?
- Is it alert?
- Is its mother in the sea nearby?
Try & place a marker to help rescuers locate the seal, then ring Orkney Seal Rescue (number below) and report your encounter. They will treat each call as a matter of urgency.
Orkney Seal Rescue
Dyke End, South Ronaldsay, Orkney
Tel: 01856 831463
Support Orkney Seal Rescue.
Orkney Seal Rescue rely heavily on charity donations and support from local businesses.
Every supporter of Orkney Seal Rescue receives a seal window sticker and a copy of Orkney Seal Rescue News.