East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) Rescue Coordinator and British Divers Marine Life Rescue Medic Chris Riddington took a call at 8.30am this morning to reports of an injured seal on the beach at the Wish Tower Eastbourne.
Chris arrived on site and spotted the young seal on waters edge. "As I approached I could see it was underweight and acting abnormally, as I got closer it returned to the water" Chris explained "I continued to monitor the seal and keep the public away, on a busy sunny day on the seafront it was easier said then done".
The seal went from beach to beach edging closer to hollywell but he didn't come far enough up the beach to attempt a rescue. "I called BDMLR national coordinator Stephen Marsh and the helpline to get further advice and request more medics attend" said Chris "it was an a game of patience and I hoped the opportunity would arise that it would be far enough up the beach to cut of its escape root and not evade capture".
Whilst waiting for other medics to attend Chris was joined by a member of the public who offered to swim out to sea and approach from the water towards the seal. "This is not our normal approach and something I was a bit worried about trying in case we spooked the seal and we lost it completely. I went as close as I could and tried to assess it's condition better and realised he had a lot of blood coming from it's muzzle. At this point I decided to take the guy up on his offer and attempt it" said Chris.
The passer by stripped down on the next beach and swam out to sea, he then swam across in line with the seal and started to swim towards the seal. Chris walked along the groyne with a net and towel and whilst the seal was distracted by the approaching swimmer managed to edge closer and closer.
Eventually the swimmer, named Jim Gibson, managed to spook the seal far enough up the beach to be too distracted to notice Chris rush over the stones and catch it in a net. "Communication and team work were crucial. It was all about timing. If the Jim had come out before I was in position or I had approached if he wasn't close enough it could of gone wrong" said Chris "it was incredible team work that really paid off".
Once caught the seal was carried up the beach and Chris was helped by other members of the public who got a cage for the seal and then help carry the injured mammal to the ambulance.
The seal has now been transferred to RSPCA Mallydams in Fairlight.
"I just want to say a huge thank you to Jim for swimming out to help me with the seal today, with dog walkers and members of the public filling the beaches it made it quicker for us to extract the seal and get it to safety. Thank you to all of the members of public on site that stayed off the beach, kept dogs on a lead and helped me load the poor seal on to the ambulance, it was so nice to see a community pulling together to help and injured animal" added Chris.