Maureen’s involvement with seal pups started by chance a few years ago. She saw an injured seal pup, named Susie, being rescued by some young people after she’d been washed up on a Greystones beach. A few months later, when she was on holiday in County Kerry, Maureen called in to the Seal Rescue Ireland centre in Dingle to find out how Susie was getting on. And then a few months later, she witnessed Susie, now fully recovered, being released back into the sea at the same place that she’d been found.
By now, Maureen was impressed with the good work being doing for the seals by volunteers, so she offered, along with her husband Pat, to help out if any injured seals needed to be transported to a rescue centre. Her name was added to the list, and from time to time, she was asked to pick up an injured seal from the place it had been found. At first, she took them to Kildare Animal Foundation, where the seal pups received first aid treatment before being moved on to Dingle. But then two years ago, Seal Rescue Ireland moved from Dingle to Courtown in County Wexford, so Maureen started to take seal pups from anywhere in Wicklow directly to the rescue centre.
Pat did a day’s training with Seal Rescue Ireland, learning how to pick seals up and handle them safely. Seals are wild animals and it’s natural for them to try to defend themselves from humans. Even young seals can give a nasty bite if not handled carefully. Maureen and Pat invested in a large plastic crate which is ideal for moving injured seals: they pick them up from beach, put them into the crate, into the back of their car, and just over an hour later, the seal pups are getting all the medical treatment they need from the experts at Seal Rescue Ireland. Not every washed-up seal pup needs to be rescued: sometimes Maureen is just asked to keep an eye on a pup, to make sure that its mother is coming and going, caring for it.
In the last three months, Maureen has rescued three pups: the first, Goofy, did well, and he’s now out in the salt water pools at Seal Rescue Ireland, getting ready to be released. The second pup, Pluto, was seriously ill, and sadly, he did not survive. Maureen consoled herself with the fact that at least she did all she could do to help him.
It’s too early to say how Alice will get on. She’s around four weeks old, and she has a nasty cut on her right shoulder. She was also badly dehydrated when she was found, although oral rehydration fluids were given to her at once, so that was soon remedied.
Seal Rescue Ireland is a not-for-profit charity that works around the clock with a team of hard working resident volunteers to care for Grey and Common Seals from around the coast of Ireland. They care for around 60-80 seal pups every year: their aim is to rehabilitate the pups back to full health and then return them to the wild when they are fit and ready.
They rely entirely on public donations to fund their work. The centre in Courtown is open daily for visitors to see the rehabilitation work first hand and meet the seals in care. There are eighteen volunteer interns from around the world, providing guided tours of the facility, explaining the rehabilitation process, and telling the stories about each individual animal. Right now, there are 45 seal pups in residence.
As well as being a dedicated seal rescue centre, the facility at Courtown is set up for the visiting public, with a gift shop, bathrooms and education area.
Maureen enjoys helping seal pups: how could anyone resist their big eyes?