ZP Week Five: The Grey Girl

Ranting to all of the feeders about how desperately I love grey seals has started to have the desired effect – I am now regularly sent to Vliehors to see my favourite babies, the moulted greys. This week, one of the other volunteers called me ‘the grey girl’.

Meanwhile, in Bi-Bu, they’re growing up fast!

But the real grey girl is Bea. Arnout, a well over 6 foot tall Dutch man, told me she is the best with the grey seals and he doesn’t hesitate to put her with even the biggest of them, that weigh nearly much as she does (about 50kg). That’s the sort of reputation I’m aiming for in life!

Speaking of Arnout, it was really cool to get to work with him this week. He has one of the most interesting jobs here, heading up the rescue and response team. He trains and coordinates volunteers all around the coast. It’s not just seals either, he is involved in stranded whales and dolphins, sea turtles, and even sunfish. After doing the BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic course I am really interested in marine animal ‘first aid’ and rescue operations and I hope I’ll be able to talk to him more about the front line of this in the Netherlands.

Barry and I are locked in a battle of wills about what is an appropriate amount of time for him to spend in the pool. Surprisingly, this is a seal and not a toddler. The fight, however, feels similar. Because I love him and only have his best interests at heart there are limitations to what I can do, whereas he couldn’t care less about me, my stress levels, or my time.

While many animals get out when you put in a squeegee or turn on a strong hose, Barry prefers to do battle with any foreign objects in his pool. My first attempt was a true failure and I had to leave him to swim and send Arnout to sort it.

My second attempt failed for long enough that I went to find Bea and tell her I couldn’t get him out. While she finished feeding in different area, I went back to do the last of the cleaning in Vliehors. As I filled up the other pools I saw out of the corner of my eye that Barry had hauled himself half out of the water. I slowly inched my way over, certain that if he knew my intent he’d be swimming again in a second. I managed to fish out his bottom half with a squeegee (approaching from the front now that I know he will want to fight me rather than run away!) and lock the gates.

But I looooovee swimming!

When Bea and I went back for the 11am feed she got to experience this. I was a little worried he would hop out for her in two seconds flat, but he stayed true to form. After trying various inventive methods, Bea grabbed him by the hind flippers and hauled him out, although she slipped and fell in the process. I felt bad, but vindicated – I don’t think I’m allowed, never mind expected, to do that just yet.

Three of the other grey seals became self eaters and I was left to lock them out of the pools as well, but thankfully the usual tricks worked.

Joline is still doing well and very sweet, but I can’t help feeling like she’s getting bored (plus over attached to humans?) and really hope that she can move outside to a pool with other seals soon.

Another favourite in the making is little Androu with his missing eye. He’s mostly moulted now and the eye is slowly healing. He’s still small and quite tired I think. He’s starting to think he ought to have a snap at your boots when you go in to clean, but quickly seems to decide this is too much effort and rests his head on them instead.

The day after arrival


Less than a week later!

I finished the week with two late shifts, so I didn’t get to see the grey seals as much, but did get to meet some of the newer common seals.

Sonia’s eye injury is likely the result of a fight between roommates, but they seem to have resolved it

While I love the greys, treating the lungworm patients is very rewarding as they make usually make such quick progress from arriving with blood all around their mouths, coughing up worms, etc. to actually seeming quite well, and if you’re lucky, eating on their own!

Another week here seems to have disappeared. It started in 2017 and now it’s the new year. I got to go on a release, spend some more time with my favourite patients, plus do plenty more feeding, cleaning, and, of course, laundry.

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