Wadden Sea, in the Netherlands, is home to more than 5,000 seals but recent storms have separated a record number of baby seals from their mothers, said Al Jazeera.
Scientists from a seal sanctuary in northern Holland reported increasing numbers washing up on shore, some suffering from the effects of pollution and lungworm, an infection that effects their breathing.
Earlier this year, AFP reported that more than 100 common and grey baby seals had been rescued in just the first two weeks of 2012, swelling the numbers at the sanctuary to include over 350 infant mammals. Normally, the sanctuary only picks up 150 pups a year.
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Karst van der Meulen, who runs the rehabilitation center, spoke of one of the pups rescued in January: “When Marco arrived here, he weighed only 19.3 kilograms. He was cold, hungry, dehydrated and riddled with lungworm, a parasite that infects infant seals and severely affects their breathing.”
The ailing pups are fed antibiotics hidden inside fish, as they recover and gain weight. They are then released back into the ocean after a few months, according to the AFP.
Al Jazeera’s report said that researchers believe a combination of overfishing and toxins from industry are the likely culprits for the seals’ weakened immune systems.
The storms and high tides also create problems for the seals, as the sand banks that they bask on remain underwater, said The Sydney Morning Herald. A volunteer working at the sanctuary, Torrey Utne, said, “They are little babies missing their moms pretty much, so it sounds like babies crying.”
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Here is the video report from Al Jazeera: