People who get involved in conservation and rescuing animals rarely do it for personal accolades, but it’s still nice to be formally appreciated, as volunteer Lizzi Larbalestier now is. Larbalestier just received a well-deserved Animal Action Award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) for her work rehabilitating rescued seals.
Larbalestier rehabilitates seals in her hometown of Cornwall, England, where she turned an Airbnb into a makeshift animal hospital, then decided she needed to scale up the operation and built a fully functional seal hospital from the ground up with the help of her husband and other volunteers.
The facility has 10 pens, and Larbalestier says she expects to work with around 100 seals a year there. In 2022, she responded to 3,000 calls about injured or displaced sea life (most of which did not have to come in for rehabilitation).
“The pups get rescued by any one of us volunteer medics and, if necessary, get brought into the hospital where a vet will check them over and create a treatment plan,” she explained. “We have clear protocols to ensure pups get the very best care, it is a real team effort.”
Seals, like all wildlife, are facing increasing threats due to human-caused pollution and changing weather patterns. Scientists in Mexico recently found that seals have been losing their fur, stemming from nutritional deficiencies as a result of the overheating of our planet. The fur loss is caused by health problems and leads to other health problems in and of itself.
Seals also face threats from things like ghost nets — fishing nets that have been lost or abandoned in the ocean. Larbalestier described disentangling seals from nets as a part of her work.
“We offer critical care for these animals post-rescue, [and] this stabilizes the pups and prepares them to move to larger rehabilitation centers,” she said.
The good news is that seal populations are actually on the rise in certain areas, such as New Zealand. Hopefully, with the help of people like Larbalestier, and a shift away from the dirty energy sources polluting the environment, they can continue to recover around the globe.
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