Frequently asked questions about the seal sanctuary
How many seals run into problems per year? What do seals eat in the sanctuary? Read the frequently asked questions about the seal sanctuary and find out how it works. Is your question not listed, send it to the animal caretakers per email: email@example.com
How many seals are there in the sanctuary?
That can vary. Harbour seals are born in the summer months, grey seals in the winter. During these periods, pups that have lost their mother are often here. In the winter months, weakened young harbour seals with a lungworm infection also regularly wash ashore. Every once in a while, there’s a seal in the sanctuary who’s been wounded by marine litter. In the permanent group at Ecomare, there are eleven harbour and three grey seals.
How many seals do you care for annually?
Ecomare cares for approximately one hundred seals per year. That includes pups (so young, they still need to nurse), sick and wounded young seals and occasionally sick and wounded adults.
Do seals always makes so much noise?
Young seals that still nurse can make crying sounds. In Dutch, they are literally referred to as ‘huilers’ (cry-babies). They make sounds to stay in touch with their mother. Seals in the sanctuary also make this noise. When they start to become more independent, they stop making noise. Unlike sea lions that make lots of noise, adult seals normally don’t produce any sound. Males are noisy only during mating season.
What do seals eat in the sanctuary?
Seal pups in the sanctuary that are still dependent upon mother milk get special seal milk. As they get older they switch to eating fish. That is usually herring since this fish species contains lots of fat. Very sick seals are usually too weak for digesting whole fish and therefore are fed mashed fish.
How do seals learn to catch their own fish?
In nature, they don’t learn to hunt from their mother; it is a natural instinct. If they’re hungry enough, they’ll start to hunt. Seals don’t lose this hunting instinct in the period they’re in a sanctuary.
Why do seals sometimes swim on their back?
Seals can swim just as readily on their back, side and belly. Since their nostrils close automatically when under water, they never inhale water. Their agility is handy when hunting fish.
Why to some seals at Ecomare have white or red eyes?
In our permanent group, many of the seals are quite old. They suffer from cataracts which turn their eyes white. A number of the animals were blind when they arrived in the sanctuary. They aren’t necessarily old, but still have white or red eyes.
Why doesn’t Ecomare release the seals in the permanent group?
The permanent group of seals consists of old animals and blind, handicapped or young animals that are too people-oriented. The older animals arrived decades ago. In those days, the Wadden Sea was very polluted and the mortality rate with seals in nature was high. Because it was feared that the rescued seals wouldn’t survive in this dirty sea, they weren’t released.
Why do seals stay under water for so long?
Seals can hold their breath much longer than we can. They can even sleep under water. When inactive, harbour seals can stay under water up to 19 minutes; grey seals manage up to a half hour. An active dive is much shorter since the animal uses more oxygen.
Can I feed a seal myself?
Unfortunately, that is not possible. There are several reasons why not. First of all, there are so many people that would like to do that; Ecomare doesn’t want to make one person happy while disappointing others. Secondly, the animal caretakers keep track of how much each seal eats per day. That doesn’t work when someone else feeds a seal in between. And thirdly, seals are the largest predators in the Netherlands. You really have to be careful when dealing with a mouth full of sharp teeth!
Can I spend a day helping out in the seal sanctuary?
The animal caretakers at Ecomare have their hands full caring for the seals, birds and animals in the Sea Aquarium. In addition, they train interns following an Animal Care program. This costs time, but the staff at Ecomare believes it’s very important that there are enough intern opportunities for students and besides, the caretakers also profit from the extra help. Internships must last a minimum of 6 weeks to make it profitable for Ecomare. Someone who only comes to help for a day costs too much time and effort for the animal caretakers. So unfortunately, it is not possible.