Cardiac function in harbour seals
Harbour seals are the most widely distributed pinnipeds in the Wadden Sea (~38.500 animals). This species is under conservation concern and is listed on Annex II of the EC Habitats & Species Directive (92/43/EEC). Despite increasing numbers of seals in the Wadden Sea over recent decades (www.waddensea-secretariat.org/management/SMP/seals.html), a general decline in most of the large harbour seal colonies around Britain was evident.
Seals live in coastal areas with a high degree of commercial and leisure human activities on shore and in the water. Environmental factors and anthropogenic stressors can cause disturbances during the pupping season, which might result in separation of seal pups from their mothers. These orphaned seal pups are recovered in specific care centres. Recovery is usually successful, but sudden death occurs and growth rates are lower than in the wild.
In collaboration with the University of Bristol, cardiac function and biomarkers are investigated in harbour seal pups during their rehabilitation period and in adult seals permanently living in the Seal Centre. The aim is to improve the knowledge of the complex cardiovascular physiology in these animals and to identify potential markers, which can be used to optimise handling and management and therefore animal welfare of seals in care centres.
This study is funded by the Ministry of Energy transition, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Areas Schleswig-Holstein.