Port Talbot RNLI help to rescue Miracle the seal
Members of Port Talbot RNLI lifeboat station volunteered to help other agencies to try and recover a seal pup, approx 20kg in weight, which had got itself stuck in amongst the flood defence rocks at Aberavon beach.
The pup had been stuck about 4ft down in a gap between the large boulders which form part of the sea defences around the old pier, but it could not be reached due to the space being too tight.
The pup was first discovered on Sunday morning (November 5) after a dog walker heard what he thought was a dog barking, but it transpired to be the young seal. The RSPCA were informed and were soon on scene to assess the situation.
Nothing could be done at the time and as the seal was not in any immediate danger, they decided to wait until the light came on Monday morning.
On Monday lifting gear was delivered to the site at midday and engineers from Sea Lift Diving Ltd, provided by Association of British Ports started to assemble the lifting gantry on a hard standing adjacent to the defences.
A number of volunteers from the lifeboat station were also there to help together with people from the RSPCA. After it had been assembled it had to be moved to where the pup was trapped. To do this boards had to be laid across the boulders so that the gantry could be moved over the gaps in them. This took quite a time as after a few feet the boards had to be placed from the rear of the gantry to the front so it could be progressed. Eventually the gantry was over the area where the pup was.
The next job was for the engineers to drill into the large boulder, weighing about a ton and a half, so that lifting eyelets could be inserted to hook on the hoist chains from the gantry. Once this was done the chains were attached and the boulder was hoisted slowly up.
Half way out the boulder stuck and the top half split away from the rest of it. Luckily the remaining half stuck in the gap and strops were able to be fitted around it and the lift continued with crowbars being used to ease it passed the tight areas. Eventually the boulder was out and moved to one side leaving the opening clear to get to the pup.
A RSPCA team member got into the hole with a extending noose and was able to get it around the pup and it was lifted out and placed in a travel box, apparently none the worse for its predicament. It was then taken to the Seal Sanctuary in Taunton for it to be checked over and will be kept there until it is deemed ready to be released back into the sea.
At 8pm the lifeboat had been launched to provide safety cover for those working on top of the boulders as the tide was coming in and the sea was quite rough with a strong wind blowing.
In total the operation had lasted from 1.30pm until 8.45pm, but it came to a successful conclusion. The pup was christened 'Miracle' by one of the crew.
Clive Morris, Port Talbot Lifeboat Operation Manager, said: 'This was a great example of a range of different agencies working together to achieve a good result in a highly unusual situation. It could be said we had the 'seal of approval' for a job well done.'
RSPCA Inspector Nic de Celis said: 'Without doubt, this was the most technical and complex rescue I have dealt with as an RSPCA inspector.
'This poor seal pup was trapped amid rocks and boulders, and access to the animal was exceptionally difficult. A one-tonne boulder literally had to be moved out of the way, before we safely got hold of the seal and did a thorough welfare assessment.
'Fortunately - despite the ordeal - the seal appears unharmed and is now being transferred immediately to specialist RSPCA wildlife facilities in Somerset.
'We're grateful to the local community for their ongoing concern for this poor seal, which is testimony to how much most people care for animals and their welfare. All at RSPCA Cymru are over the moon that we were able to save the seal - in what was a bit of a miracle for the seal known as Miracle!
'This amazing rescue is another example of the great things we can achieve working together for animal welfare. It was great to work closely with AB Ports, Sea-Lift Diving, RNLI, BDMLR and Neath Port Talbot Council to help this seal.'
For further information please contact Mel Cooper, RNLI Lifeboat Press Officer at Port Talbot on 01639 894335.
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.