Dozens of seals rescued by ‘fake mums' in innovative wetsuit creation

Seal Rescue Ireland volunteer Lynn Haughton designed the ‘wetsuit mums'.

Dozens of orphaned seal pups who were swept away from their mothers during storms are being saved by “wetsuit mums”.

Seal Rescue Ireland in Co Wexford has seen a recent surge in orphaned seals, with many just days and weeks old.

The injured or orphaned pups are comforted by the “fake mums” which are made from old wetsuits.

The charity organisation which rescues, rehabilitates and releases native seals from across the coast, said it uses wetsuits that would have ended up in landfill.

Each of the pups needs months of care after being separated from their mother and would not survive if left alone in the wild.

Seal Rescue Ireland use ‘Wetsuit Mammas’ to comfort orphaned pups
Melanie Croce and week-old orphaned seal pup Andromoda (Brian Lawless/PA)

The “wetsuit mums” are made to look and feel like an adult seal and are placed beside the pups in the centre’s intensive care unit.

Executive director of Seal Rescue Ireland Melanie Croce said that orphaned seals can become distressed when brought into the centre.

“When they become separate from their mother very young they have virtually no chance of survival and that’s when we have to step in, help them and bring them back to a healthy weight, and get them big and strong enough to be released into the wild,” she said.

“They can be very stressed and we look for ways to keep them calm.

“The idea kind of evolved and we tried it out and it was a hit. It’s a practical way to help them along, it’s very heart-warming and this is the closest thing they will have to a mother.

“We have 17 pups and they all get a fake mum with them. We put them into an ICU container with a heat lamp – it’s a quiet place for them to rest.

“After storms we always get a huge amount of calls about abandoned pups so this is how climate change is impacting.

“They also become orphaned through human disturbance. People don’t realise that seals need to rest and they raise their young on the beach and if you approach a seal the mother might leave and not come back for their young.”

The designer behind the “wetsuit mum”, Lynn Haughton, said she wanted it to resemble an adult seal.

Lynn, who is founder and designer of The Upcycle Movement, had been volunteering at the centre when she was asked to make the wetsuits.

“I repurpose recyclable textiles and I have my own design collection focusing on wetsuits so we tried out this new creation and it worked,” Ms Haughton said.

Seal Rescue Ireland use ‘Wetsuit Mammas’ to comfort orphaned pups
An orphaned pup named Stellar takes part in ‘fish school’ (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It has a recycled waterproof lining filled with off-cuts from old wetsuits so it’s great to get those used too.

“The seals responded really well – most have went straight to it but some aren’t bothered.

“It’s definitely effective. They are really happy with it and other rescue centres in the UK have contacted me about how they can do it.”

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