Pinkafo – well again and going home!
For seal wardens. it’s always sad to come across a seal tangled with plastic waste, ropes, fishing net, and plastic discs. We refer to seals in this state as being necklaced, in other words, they have some unnatural object around their necks which is causing them a problem.
Strictures, however, are not confined to the neck and other man-made material can also get tangled in flippers, impeding normal swimming and reducing the animal’s ability to catch fish. When a seal comes across fish caught or held within a net, it sees them as a meal. Why wouldn’t it? Nylon filaments go unnoticed until they tighten around the neck, digging into the flesh as the seal pushes to get clear. The lucky ones manage to break free and escape with just a ‘necklace’. In other cases the entanglement might be too severe, or the filaments too strong, and drowning results.
Frisbees are a brilliant toy, getting children (and adults) running around in the fresh air, exercising muscles and developing hand and eye co-ordination. Young seals also learn through play with them. The difference being that they have no parental guidance to keep them safe during the game.
Grey seal pups can only keep warm and dry in the sea when they have shed their white, baby fur and their adult coat has grown. By then they are about six weeks old and they instinctively begin to explore and learn how to find and catch fish, crabs, and other food items. The hole in a frisbee is just another place to probe for prey, and, at that age, they are small enough to push their heads through. The frisbee gets lodged, held by the seal’s waterproof fur, and they cannot remove it with their flippers.
It’s not too much of a problem at first, but they grow quickly and the rigid plastic starts to dig into the neck, ultimately cutting into the flesh and restricting swallowing.
Without food the seal weakens and the open wound becomes susceptible to infection.
This was the case with the female, pictured below. After many sightings by seal wardens, and following up reports from the public, FoHS seal rescuers finally managed to trap the seal in December 2018 and transport her to RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre for treatment. She was given the hospital name of Pinkafo*, a reference to the pink frisbee.
On entry to East Winch, staff doubted that Pinkafo would survive, but after a few days of treatment she rallied and started to feed and her appetite increased as treatment continued. Even so, it took 5 months of care for the wound to close and Pinkafo to gain condition and be ready for release.
* Animals are named on entry for ease of matching treatment to the correct animal. Names are themed, and the theme at the time was horse breeds. (Pinkafo is a breed of draft horse developed in Hungary)