A STRICKEN seal which was flown 200 miles for urgent specialist care after being found washed-up on Wearside has been returned to the wild.
Samson the seal was found at Hendon docks earlier this year, badly injured, covered in cuts and unable to move.
The British Divers’ Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) was called in to help rescuers, who faced a race against time to recover the mammal.
After reaching her, Samson was rushed to Ayres Vets, North Shields, where she was stabilised.
However, it became clear specialist treatment would be necessary in order to save her life, treatment which was only available 200 miles away in Norfolk.
Facing a race against time and unlikely to survive the journey by road, Samson was taken to Newcastle Airport and flown to the RSPCA’s East Winch Wildlife Centre by a light aircraft.
Now, almost eight weeks after she was discovered, she is now fully recovered and has been released into waters at Norfolk.
Steven Orwin, a Wearside-based volunteer with the BDMLR, said: “Samson was released 100 per cent fit. She was a favourite at the sanctuary due to her temperament while undergoing treatment.
“She’ll be a miss at East Winch.”
Samson Aviation helped get the seal on to the plane, and waived any fees for freight handling that may have incurred.
The light plane was flown up from the Midlands, taking Samson to Norfolk, before returning home.
The seal is thought to have swam in through an inlet and been unable to get out.
“It was a bit of a race against time at one point,” said Richard Ilderton, a co-ordinator for BDMLR. “The initial box we got to transport her from the vets to the airport was too small, so we had to find another one.
“Then it was a rush to get her down there as quickly as possible.
“We really appreciated the help we got off everyone, especially Samson Aviation, who we named her after, and Ayres Vets who treated her for free.”
BRITISH Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) was formed in 1988.
A few like-minded divers got together in response to the mass mortality of Harbour seals in the Wash area of East Anglia, to do what they could for the rescue effort.
BDMLR has been involved in the rescue of marine wildlife after every major marine disaster since, including the Braer shipwreck in Shetland and the Sea Empress grounding in Milford Haven.
Seal rescue has remained the major focus of the work of the charity, with BDMLR medics routinely rescuing seals in all seasons.
Over the years, many hundreds have been helped, the charity working closely with specialist rehabilitation facilities to ensure their long term care and eventual return to the wild.
In 2004, with the aid of a grant from International Fund for Animal Welfare, the BDMLR set up its own small seal rehabilitation unit near John O’Groats in Scotland, backed up with a quad bike to rescue seals from remote beaches.
Every year, BDMLR trains more than 400 volunteer Marine Mammal Medics and has 20 whale rescue pontoons located at strategic points throughout the UK, waiting to help stranded whales and dolphins.