Cornish Seal Sanctuary spreads wings to support Icelandic puffins

the image is of a puffin's face
CHAOS Radio - Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Qweek

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The Cornish Seal Sanctuary, tucked away in the village of Gweek near Helston, rescues and rehabilitates over 70 seal pups per year from local coastal waters, caring for them in their specialist seal hospital before being released back into the wild. 

The facility also provides a permanent home for any seals that can’t be released, due to permanent medical conditions, and recently extended their mission in support of the Puffin Rescue Centre, a sister sanctuary located in Iceland that features a rescue program for the seabirds.

Alongside the seals, and a host of other quirky residents that include beavers and farmyard animals, a group of puffins are now permanently housed at Gweek where they can receive ongoing specialist treatment for their injuries.

The increased capacity frees up the sanctuary in Iceland, based in Vestmannaeyjar, just off the south coast of the island, to continue their fine work, which also includes the formation of the world’s first Beluga Whale Sanctuary.

“[The puffins] are doing so well,” said Emily Figge, from the Seal Sanctuary’s Animal Care Team, in discussion with CHAOS Radio. “The big things that we are looking for are that they have a healthy appetite, that they are using all of the space in the enclosure and we are just seeing them swim, preen and eat really well, so we are quite pleased. 

“Most of them have permanent injuries such as the loss of an eye and partial blindness. Several were rescued from oil spills and pollution in the ocean, so they lost their waterproofing and tend to have chronic waterproofing problems because of that chemical exposure, so they won’t be able to be released. 

“One of largest puffin breeding colonies in the world is actually in Iceland, so they are one of the native bird species there. This was actually the first time that puffins have ever been exported from Iceland, so that is actually a very momentous thing as well. Depending on how they settle and their space use, [the potential to bring over more] could be a conversation in a few years time. 

“We’re working on some adoption packs for each of the individuals which will share their story, why they had to be rescued and some other cute quirks and personality traits. [Sponsorship money] goes directly into funding care for the birds.”

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary will celebrate it’s 50th anniversary in 2025, having opened in Qweek back in 1975 after outgrowing a previous site in St Agnes.

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Join the Cornish Seal Sanctuary on Sunday, May 19 to run for more than fun, and raise money to help support their Fund Our Future campaign which aims to replace the Sanctuary’s resident seal pools.

Run, walk (or flop) 3 km around the sanctuary, or brand new for 2024, join in remotely. Tickets are priced at £15 per person, which includes free day entry to the Sanctuary and a race goodie bag.

Find out more and sign up here.