In the beautiful, blustery seaside city of Cornwall, a woman runs a hospital for injured seals amid volunteer work rescuing all kinds of sea life, and was recently awarded the Animal Action Award for her heroic work.
Lizzi Larbalestier is a volunteer for British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) who spent nine months caring for injured seals after she turned her Airbnb into a makeshift animal hospital. After determining it simply wasn’t enough, she, her husband, and other volunteers have built a fully functioning seal hospital from the ground up in Cornwall.
The new facility has ten pens, while the couple’s home facility had just six. Now in their third birthing season of operation, Larbalestier is expecting around 100 seals to come for rehabilitation each year, after last year saw 3,000 calls to respond to injured or displaced sea life.
Some need first aid and are brought in after suffering a wound from boats or fishing equipment. Others are pups that get separated from their parents, and still others are juveniles who weren’t successful hunters and would have otherwise died because they became too malnourished.
And just as the reasons for a seal’s arrival in Larbalestier’s hospital may vary, their time spent there also varies between a simple check-up, first aid, a disentanglement from a fishing net, or an entire foster and rehabilitation program that will usually see them shipped off to a larger facility.
Larbalestier is also a member of the Surfer’s Against Sewage campaign and Ghostnetbuster, and as a result of all her dedicated environmental work, she received the prestigious Animal Action Award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), presented in London, this week.
Lizzi emphasizes the day-to-day work is shared by all of their team, and each volunteer is ‘crucial’ to BDMLR’s marine conservation efforts.
“The pups get rescued by any one of us volunteer medics and, if necessary, get brought into the hospital where a vet will check them over and create a treatment plan,” she said. “We have clear protocols to ensure pups get the very best care, it is a real team effort.”
“We offer critical care for these animals post-rescue, [and] this stabilizes the pups and prepares them to move to larger rehabilitation centers.
After the hospital treatment, the pups in Cornwall are transferred to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary or West Hatch RSPCA facility, prior to their release out into the wild.
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Despite their main rescue efforts involving seals, Larbalestier says the team of volunteers at BDMLR are called out on all sorts of marine wildlife including whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
Recent ones have included responding to a turtle that came into Perranporth (which she relayed to Newquay Blue Reef Aquarium for specialist care), and a rescue operation for eight dolphins who were stranded in the mud at Mylor Bridge.
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“I have been lucky to be involved in several successful refloats of stranded dolphins,” she said, reflecting on her career. “It is so important if anyone comes across a stranded marine mammal that they call for trained responders.”
“The Animal Action Awards are our long-standing commitment to honor and herald the animal heroes that make an impact,” stated Azzedine Downes, President and CEO, IFAW, on the occasion of the presentation of the award to Lizzi. “I’m thrilled we are now able to showcase inspiring people from all across the globe – from all different walks of life.
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