A LOVABLE seal pup turns and gives one last look of thanks to his rescuers before slipping into the wash and heading out to sea.
The juvenile grey seal was one of three released back into coastal waters off Pett Beach by local RSPCA staff.
Found in Somerset back in October, the trio were unable to fend for themselves and faced a future threatened by starvation.
That was until Mallydams Wood rescue centre just outside Hastings offered to take them in.
The two females and one male were gradually nursed back to health and earlier this week, having reached a healthy weight, they were released back into the wild.
And according to RSPCA wildlife officer Richard Thompson, who was on hand to wave them off, it was well worth the weeks of work put in helping them. “Seeing seals go back to where they belong – nature – is fantastic and makes all our hard work worthwhile,” he told the Observer.
“In this case everything went off without a hitch and the animals went straight into the water - barely looking back.”
Staff at Mallydams Wood are also caring for two very young seal pups. Without the care, and more importantly milk, of their mothers, the pair would face little or no chance of survival in the wild.
The first pup was found in Jersey and transported to Mallydams Wood in November last year when he was just one or two days old. He has needed specialist veterinary care by the team but is thankfully now on the mend.
The second pup is about three to four weeks old but is very underweight and arrived in desperate need of veterinary attention. He was found on Margate beach, rescued by British Divers Marine Life Rescue and brought to Mallydams Wood on Boxing Day.
He is being rehydrated with fluids and will be started on small fish as soon as possible. Mallydams Wood is one of four specialist RSPCA wildlife centres in England and Wales and is hosting a talk on Seals: Our overlooked Sea Mammal in SE England with Jonathan Bramley from the Kent Mammal Group on Thursday (January 20).
Anyone interested in going along - or in volunteering at the centre - should ring Fiona Canning on 0300 1230750 or email fcanning@RSPCA.org.uk.