Early on Sunday morning, after a horrendous storm had passed, I ran past a little seal sleeping on the beach in Cardiff by the Sea.
This wasn’t any normal seal. This one was high up on the beach, near the edge of a cliff. He looked really tired. He was breathing rapidly and sometimes coughed heavily but strangely he wasn’t trying to get back into the water. I stared at him a little perplexed. Having just arrived in this warm paradise after 8 years in London, I had no idea what I should do. Should I call someone and stay to make sure he’s ok?
I’d just about made my decision to continue my run then swing by him later to check on him, when I saw a family walk up to him and try to touch him, posing for photographs. This little guy raised his head and gave a frightened bellow, shifting his body away trying to protect himself. I lost my temper, swung around and immediately told them off for getting too close to him and asked them to step away. Thankfully, I was not alone. Two guys with a dog stopped to join in and a runner called Mike who works for Project Wildlife stopped to help guard him too.
We all stood with him as the sun went down, determined not to move until the beach emptied of people or the authorities arrived. Thankfully, the coastguard arrived and they told us he wasn’t injured or sick at all, just tired, so it was safe to leave him with them.
Six days later, he’s still on the beach! I go for a walk every day to check on him and sometimes to sit three meters away, watching him sleep and taking pictures. People came by curious about him, asking questions and offering assistance. All week and a lot of locals and volunteers have been taking turns to look out for him. Mike came around (again after a run) and gave me an update too.
According to the local Volunteers, Sea World – the only Seal rescue centre in California – had been out to look at him a few times and have declared that he was healthy, around 2.5 months old and that our baby seal was a girl. They assured the volunteers that this process she’s going through is completely normal. “When young seals grow to a certain age, their mother’s abandon them and leave them on a beach to shed their fur and puppy fat ready to join the adults.” Mike explained. “This process can take up to a couple of weeks, and so we should leave her alone. If we try and put her back in the water at this stage, chances are she will drown.”
This elephant seal pup is estimated to be about the same age as when seals are abandoned – the only odd thing is that she is on Cardiff beach and she is alone. SeaWorld has suggested that she got lost and washed up on the beach during last week’s storm, and was too weak to try and reach his group.
“She’s alright” local volunteer Judi told us. “She’ll stick around here for another week or so, then she’ll leave to go hunting for fish. Until then, we’ll be here to keep an eye on her.” The only worry that many of the volunteers have, myself included, is just how many people are getting too close to her.
“This is a public beach and so we can’t stop people from coming down here, but it’s not possible to be watching all the time. We’ve put orange pylons out here to make people aware, but people are still get too close to her.” Judi explains. “Just this morning a bunch of kids were jumping over her and going up and touch her. Who are these parents that are letting their children do this? These are wild animals and she will bite you if you get too close. Not to mention the poor thing must be scared out of her mind.”
The local lifeguards and wildlife volunteers are doing all they can, but they need some help. It looks like our little seal pup is going to be with us for the next week or so, so please be respectful and keep your distance, don’t tease or harass her, and keep a watchful eye on your children to make sure they don’t give her cause to harm them. As the day goes by, she will move up and down the beach so if you see the pylons out of place, please move them to help protect her again.
She is very loveable and has many fans already, she’s always happy to pose for photographs so please give her your love, not your games. If you are concerned about her wellbeing or if you think she may be injured or ill, find a nearby lifeguard or if necessary call SeaWorld for help.