Thank goodness 'fur' that!

Seal rescuers in Cornwall are sighing with relief after a completely bald seal finally grew a fur coat.

They can now begin planning a major release mission for the rare Hooded Seal that came to them in April 2007 from a rescue centre in Tenerife, literally thousands of miles from its home territory in the Arctic.

Christened Sahara, he was massively overweight and very lethargic when he arrived at the National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall, but these problems paled into insignificance when staff saw that he was also furless from his nose to the tips of his hind flippers.

"A strict diet and competition for available food with other rescued grey seal pups has solved his weight and fitness problems," said animal care assistant Tamara Cooper.

Sahara's condition on arrival at the National Seal Sanctuary

"As for his absence of fur, all we could do was keep our fingers crossed and hope that he would grow a normal fur coat when the time came for what, in ordinary circumstances, would be his annual moult.

"Sure enough, although he couldn't undergo the first part of the process by shedding an existing fur coat, he benefited from the second. He's not a misfit any more, and that means he can go back to the wild."

Previous experience with rescued Hooded Seals, which have occasionally headed south again even after being released as far north as the Shetlands, has convinced experts that Sahara needs a lift all the way to the Arctic ice-flow.

"We're hoping to be able to recruit the aid of a scientific expedition or perhaps one of the armed forces to get Sahara back where he belongs," said Tamara.

"We're also hoping to attract sponsorship to cover the 3,000 needed to fit him with a satellite tag to track him and make sure that our mission works."

But Tamara confessed that planning for Sahara's release is in the very earliest stages, and for the time being she and her colleagues are just grateful that he at least has the chance of a normal life again.

Sahara is now ready to return to the wild

For more details, please contact Rachael Vine on 01326 221361.

Press Release date: 15th June 2007

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