Behavioural pattern of orphan seals pups in rehabilitation and wild seal pups.
My master thesis, supervised by Klaus Zuberbühler and Susan Wilson (Northern Ireland) is a comparative study of behaviour of orphan seal pups in rehabilitation and wild seal pups for two seal species:harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus).
In most rehabilitation centres in the UK, Ireland and North America, orphan harbour seal pups are kept for some weeks in isolation without access to water (Robinson, 1995). This is contrary to the well-established understanding that any new-born mammal orphan needs a mother substitute and an environment as close as possible to the essential features of their natural habitat.
The purpose of the study is to improve the rehabilitation conditions and welfare of seal pups by making a quantitative comparisons of proportion of behaviour and stress hormones of two species of seals in different rehabilitation situations (isolation, pairs, groups; with and without access to water; relative growth rates) and in the wild. The study will start at the beginning of the pupping season of harbour seals (end of June) and continue to the end of the pupping season of grey seals (early November). Behaviour will be recorded on video and stress hormones will be analysed from urine collected non-invasively.