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'Do Not Disturb': Walkers in France asked not to frighten seals

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By Mark Armstrong with AFP
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Seals colonies are increasing along France's northern coast
Seals colonies are increasing along France's northern coast   -   Copyright  AFP
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Walkers on the north coast of France are being asked not to approach seal colonies as it can cause the adults to abandon their pups.

Since being made a protected species in the 1980s, seals have started to return to the Opal Coast around Calais in increasing numbers.

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, curious walkers often get too close and spook the seals, who may also end up injuring themselves while fleeing and leaving their young behind.

France's Animal Protection League noted the problem after rounding up more abandoned baby seals than usual this year.

"The annual round-up of the LPA is between 50 and 60 seal pups per year, for two species combined, grey seals and sea calves," explained Jean-Michel Charpentier, Director of the Animal Protection League shelter in Calais.

"Today, with this large population in the area, and all the disturbances we've had, we've had 47 seals in three months, 47 stranded pups in three months, which we've had to take to the care centre and rehabilitate."

It can be sink or swim being a seal. In some instances, mothers will abandon their young deliberately because they fail to learn to hunt quickly enough.

Those taken to the animal rescue centre are cared for and weaned until it is assessed that they will be able to cope back in the open sea.