Footage shows seals throwing themselves off cliffs to avoid tourists
Seals are magnificent creatures. In fact, if it wasn't for my obsession with dogs, they would top my list of favourite animals. They are sleek and elegant swimmers, and on land they look both cute and a bit ridiculous. Their faces make them look kind of like water-based puppies sometimes, don't they?
All of this makes it even more painful to hear the recent news, although it's something which would be heartbreaking regardless of the creature it was happening to. It has been reported that tourists near St. Mary's Island, north of Whitley Bay in the northeast of England, are disturbing the behaviour of seals in the area by getting too close.
St. Mary's Seal Watch (SMSW) has released footage of a shocking incident in which the sea mammals risked their lives to get away, throwing themselves from the cliff top to the rocks below. A spokesperson for SMSW has issued a warning to people who want to get as close as they can to the animals. In the statement, they said:
"While many visitors once aware, are respectful of the animal's needs, there are those, whether through ignorance or intent, that are not.
"While we would always try to prevent occurrences such as these, without much more robust management of the site these incidents will happen too often.
"Nature Reserves are places where wildlife should be protected and undisturbed. If wildlife is not safe on a nature reserve where will it be?"
Not used to being in contact with humans, the seals can hurt themselves in their startled effort to get away. You can see the disturbing footage, in which the animals drop of the rocky ledge into unsafe waters, in the video below.
The St. Mary's Seal Watch's statement continues, explaining exactly how this event comes to pass and how we can avoid it happening again:
"Disturbance is caused by the sight and sound of visitors. When disturbance happens on a rocky site like St. Mary's Island, the chance of injury is high. When it happens repeatedly it can reduce the animal's chances of remaining healthy or even their survival."
Last year, a similar incident occurred at St. Mary's involving the sea mammals. After a group of seals were spotted playing in the water, SMSW posted this on Facebook:
"St Mary's Island is the only grey seal haul out in this area. Seals need to haul out and rest as part of their natural cycle. Any disturbance to this increases their use of energy, raises their stress levels and means they are more likely to injure themselves."
"Repeat disturbance means the seals are less likely to return in the numbers we have seen recently."
Some of these falls can cause minor injuries, but as you can see in the video, some look much more rough. Even if they are still relatively healthy afterwards, persistent injuries could affect their ability to survive out at sea. We should all be careful with how we approach animals in the wild, as we don't know the consequences our actions may have. In addition, we should all make more overall effort to protect animals, for example by supporting World Animal Day.