Secret Life of Seals

The Friends of Juniper Hall’s latest talk – on Thursday 12th October – delved into the fascinating secret life of seals! As always, the talk was followed by a hearty lunch of soup, sandwiches and dessert and a chance for a good natter.

One of Juniper Hall’s Tutors, Stephen Savage, fondly recollects the young rescued seal that occupied his bath one night back in 1994, starting him off on an enduring passion for studying and conserving seals on the Sussex coast.  Sussex hosts both harbour seal and grey seal species in its waters, told apart mainly from the shape of their heads.  In addition, each individual animal has a unique set of markings on its coat. 

Now the Sussex “County Recorder” for sea mammals, Stephen has been instrumental in building a photographic database of the county’s individual seals, and tracking their movements with the help of increasing submissions of mobile phone photos taken by members of the public. This has helped uncover that it is mainly transient young seals that habitually use the Sussex coast and rivers until they mature and move on to suitable breeding habitats such as those found around Norfolk.  

Stephen has spent countless hours watching seals going about their lives, hunting fish (commonly mullet), hauling out and resting on the county’s river banks and in the outer part of Eastbourne’s Royal Sovereign Harbour, and studying their interactions with swans, cows and other animals, and their responses to human disturbances like boats, people and their dogs. He has helped establish seal protection areas and continually promotes the importance of giving seals space and tranquility, delighting in their presence from a respectful distance.