A grey seal pup named Judi Dench has returned to the wild after she was found injured and dehydrated on Millook Haven beach near Widemouth this autumn.
The pup, who was rescued back in September, was named after the legendary actress following a visit to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, where Dame Judi herself got to meet the poorly seal. The family visit on September 22 was described as ‘fate’ by the charity’s Fundraising Manager Leanne Attwood, and the actress shared how excited she was to meet the rescue that now bears her name.
Following the visit, she also adopted Judi Dench and fellow rescue Owen Wilson to support the charity’s efforts. Finty Williams, Dame Judi Dench’s daughter, was also on the visit with her mother.
She said: “We felt so very lucky to see them both and Ma is very honoured that she has a little seal, bounding about in the sea, that shares her name.”
Today, Judi the pup has returned to the wild with fellow rescues, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, following their successful rehabilitation programme. The release was the charity’s first one of the 23/24 grey seal pup season.
With the three pups now healthy and ready to face life in the wild, they’ll have the best possible chance for survival.
Tamara Cooper, curator for the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, said: “It hasn’t been an easy start to the pup season, with a number of pups who came to the Sanctuary with complicated issues early in the autumn.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to now see some of those pups successfully completing our rehabilitation programme and returning back to where they belong.
“Our hospital continues to be incredibly busy, but, with the help of our supporters, our team continues to work hard to return as many seal pups back to the wild as possible.
“Finally, a huge thank you to our friends at British Divers Marine Life Rescue, who are coordinating the rescues and supporting the initial rehabilitation of many of our pups this year.”
As the season continues and the winter storms roll in, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is now reminding beachgoers to take precautions when visiting beaches where pups are present.
Tamara adds: “Human disturbance is a huge problem for our seal pup population, and we’d recommend anyone heading to their local beaches this winter to keep dogs on lead until checking the beach is clear, and keeping their distance if it isn’t.”
So, what can you do if you find a pup on the beach? Beachgoers are advised to keep dogs on leads and children away, and not to approach or chase the seal back into the sea (it advised to keep a distance of 100m at all times).
If you believe the pup is in distress or needs medical attention, you can find the signs to look out for and what to do next.
You can also call the Cornish Seal Sanctuary on 01326 221361 or the BDLMR 24-hour hotline on 01825 765546 for more advice.
Support the sanctuary
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary’s rescue, rehab and release project is all about saving grey seal pups from around the Cornish coastline. Each year, the charity will see an estimated 70 pups come through the doors from September to March, with care for each pup costing an average of £2,000 - £3,000. To find out more about the Cornish Seal Sanctuary and its mission, click here. You can support the new pup season by donating to the team’s Wishlist Appeal here.