By: Laurence Dodds
This is the moment Primrose Possum the seal is released back into the wild after vets nursed her back to health.
The eight-month-old was found on Blyth beach with a swollen, infected eye and low weight, too lethargic to escape from humans who came near.
But yesterday she swam off into the sunset at St Mary’s lighthouse helped by volunteers from wildlife charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue.
And while she is permanently blind in one eye, her helpers say she stands a good chance of a happy life.
Natasha Banks, head nurse at the St Clare Veterinary Centre, said: ”It’s normal for seals to come onto the beach to rest, but although they’re quite playful and inquisitive in the water, they feel threatened on land.
“When people approach them they tend to make an exit. But this seal didn’t make any attempt to move, so she was obviously feeling pretty unwell and probably would have been in some pain.”
When Primrose came to the clinic late last Tuesday her kennel was too big to fit through the front door and she had to be left waddling around on the waiting room floor for 15 minutes.
Her bizarre moniker is a combination of two names given by two medics who each thought they had spotted a different seal.
Vets then enticed her onto the scales with fish, checked her weight, and put her in their new tiled isolation room where she could be hosed down every day without leaks.
Despite regular fish donated by Asda and Tesco she snapped at her captors, at one point taking a bite out of vet Rory Thomson’s waterproof jacket.
Staff had to put a towel over her good eye, sit on her back, hold her head still and ply her with a fish so they could administer eye drops and antibiotic.
But Natasha said this was a good sign because aggression towards humans can be an important defence in the wild.
She said: “If she was used to having humans touching and feeding her she would become reliant on them. It’s a dangerous situation to allow tat. We only handled her when we absolutely had to.
“Even so, she learned very quickly where her fish came from. When we came in in the morning to feed her and clothe her she would hear the rustle of the bag she’d come to the door.
“When she was having her morning showers and afternoon showers she did like to be sprayed with the hose and have her tummy tickled with the feeding stick.”
Rory said: “We haven’t invoiced the charity anything and I don’t think we intend to. The boss is on holiday in Spain, so he doesn’t know what we’ve done.
“No animal should really suffer, and as vets we’ve got to look after any animal that comes in. I’d rather fix it, treat it and send it back into the wild than have to put it down.
“It should be able to survive quite happily with just one eye. There are reports of seals in the wild with no eyes at all. They tend to fare very well by using their whiskers to feel out fishes.”