Milford waves goodbye to seal sanctuary

10:47am Thursday 20th February 2014

AN ANIMAL hospital that has been giving sick and abandoned seals a ‘second chance’ for almost two decades has closed its doors for the last time.

Opened 17 years ago by co-ordinator Terry Leadbetter, Milford Haven’s iconic seal hospital released its last patient in early January.

What started as a temporary base inside an old blue storage tank turned into an established seal sanctuary, with Terry and his team treating hundreds of ill, injured or abandoned animals over the years.

But the rising costs of fuel, fish and vets fees have meant the hospital is now just too much work for 68-year-old Terry, his wife Ann, and their team of volunteers.

“I’m very upset about it, I was hoping to find somewhere else suitable and someone else to run it but that obviously wasn’t to be,” said Terry.

“We’ve gathered a tremendous amount of knowledge over the years, and with us packing up, that knowledge will be lost.”

Terry had hoped to find someone to take over the hospital before he retired, but after years of searching and offers of premises falling through, has decided to call it a day.

Over the years, Terry has travelled the length and breadth of the county in his quest to help seals in distress.

Seal season usually starts at the end of August, with the pups often separated from their mothers by high tides and strong winds.

“A lot of baby seals we find are less than a week old, they’re totally dependent on their mothers, if we didn’t pick them up they would die,” he said.

Without their mothers’ rich milk, lost seal pups need feeding several times a day in order to gain enough weight to survive at sea.

Last year, the charity spent around £3,000 on fish to feed its patients, with an average pup consuming anything up to 150 mackerel a day.

“We’ve had a very good success rate,” said Terry, adding that the last 17 years had been “time definitely well-spent”.

“It’s been a unique experience, and I’ve felt privileged to have dealt with these special animals.”

Terry says his commitment these “remarkable, intelligent creatures” is what has kept him involved over the years, and he will still be keeping eye on the coastline through his charity Welsh Marine Life Rescue.

“I hope I’ve got a good few years left in me yet,” he said.


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