Geoff George scrambled down a steep, rocky cliff, being careful not to stumble. His goal? To reach the bottom of the treacherous decline, where an animal was teetering on the brink of death.
Making cautious progress, George at last reached his destination. But when he saw the sick and abandoned youngster, he realized just how critical her situation was.
George had been alerted to the creature’s presence because he is an Animal Collection Officer for the Guernsey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) in the U.K. Indeed, the organization had received a call to rescue the stranded animal after she had been seen alone on the rocky beach.
But what was the animal? In fact, George’s charge was a young grey seal who had apparently been separated from her mother. What’s more, the tiny pup was incredibly thin and very weak.
Incidentally, this incredible rescue story took place in January 2016 along the dramatic cliffs of Guernsey’s La Corbière. It was the first seal pup rescue that the GSPCA had seen in two years.
Still, the organization had written in a news update that the previous winter had been quite mild, resulting in difficult times for marine animals. The GSPCA had, then, already rescued a number of oiled sea birds.
But let’s get back to George and the seal pup. So, after the GSPCA got the call, George was sent in to retrieve the stranded animal. However, once he saw her, he immediately feared for the life of the tiny creature.
After all, the pup had found herself roughly tossed onto the rocky beach and separated from her mother. Moreover, the baby seal was only about a week old, and she was severely malnourished.
Therefore, George quickly secured the frail seal pup and brought her back to the GSPCA Wildlife Unit for a consultation. The seal would also receive a name from the team, and that name was Bonnie.
Bonnie’s prognosis, though, was not good. In fact, the GSPCA was unsure whether the pup would make it through the night.
Indeed, at her age, Bonnie should have weighed around 90 pounds, but she was only a third of that. She was also extremely dehydrated.
So the team gave Bonnie re-hydration fluids and placed her under a heat lamp in their seal unit, hoping for the best. “We have to tube feed the very ill seal pup every two hours or so through the night, if not over the next few days for any chance of survival,” George wrote in an update on the organization’s blog.
With staff working around the clock to care for her, then, Bonnie managed to survive her first 36 hours in the shelter. Later, the GSPCA confirmed that she was still very weak and would require a long recovery before it even considered releasing her back into the wild.
In fact, Bonnie would spend the next several months working on getting stronger and healthier. She was given plenty of food, medical attention and personal care from the staff during her stay too.
Slowly, she graduated from tube feeding to eating fish. Indeed, Bonnie managed to triple her weight while at the GSPCA, finally reaching a healthy level for a young seal.
Then, once Bonnie tipped the scales over her important weight milestone of 88 pounds, the GSPCA decided it was finally time for her to return to the wild. The exciting news was posted in another blog entry at the end of June 2016.
“We really were worried for Bonnie the seal pup when she was rescued, as she was so weak and we really thought she wouldn’t survive,” wrote Steve Byrne, GSPCA Manager. “Thanks to the hard work and care of the team at the GSPCA, especially Geoff George, and a few sleepless nights caring for Bonnie, the seal pup has now more than tripled her rescue weight and looking fantastic.”
Moreover, to raise money for Bonnie’s fish, the shelter held a competition called “Bonnie’s final fattening appeal.” The winner, Phillip Northcott, was granted the honor of attending Bonnie’s release, but passed the opportunity along to one of Guernsey’s young volunteers when he was unable to attend.
Preparations began to release Bonnie on Jethou Island, the same spot where the GSPCA released the last four seal pups it had rescued. The team jokingly referred to her departure as #BonnieBrexit.
After being transported to Jethou, Bonnie hopped right out of her carrier and into the water. “Bonnie was so thin when we rescued her and to see her swim back where she belongs was fantastic,” George said of the happy moment.