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Distressed baby seal rescued from River Orwell in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 22:59 02 August 2017 | UPDATED: 22:59 02 August 2017

The seal was stranded in the river before being rescued in Ipswich, near the Sir Bobby Robson Bridge. Picture: MATT STOTT

The seal was stranded in the river before being rescued in Ipswich, near the Sir Bobby Robson Bridge. Picture: MATT STOTT

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Fire and RSPCA crews have performed a dramatic rescue mission to retrieve a baby seal in distress in the River Orwell.

A water rescue team from Princes Street fire station in Ipswich was sent to the scene, near the Sir Bobby Robson bridge, at around 4.46pm to help the animal welfare experts by lifting the seal to safety.

Crowds of onlookers lined the riverbank on West End Road and watched as firefighters worked to retrieve the animal.

Station commander Jon Southgate said “without a doubt” the crews saved the seal’s life.

“We responded to a call from the RSPCA for assistance in rescuing a baby seal,” he said.

Rescuers from the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service celebrate the successful rescue operation of a baby seal in a river in Ipswich. Picture: MATT STOTTRescuers from the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service celebrate the successful rescue operation of a baby seal in a river in Ipswich. Picture: MATT STOTT

“We do get seals in the dock area. I would say it’s rare for one to come this high up the river.

“From our point of view it is a successful outcome.

“With the additional resources we were able to deploy with the appropriate dry suits into the water and by just very carefully making our way to the seal and gently corralling it into a small area.

He added: “By adapting we managed to get the young seal into the care of the RSPCA.

The seal has been taken to an RSPCA care centre to be checked over, but its current condition is not known.

Mr Southgate added: “They have explained to me that it was only about eight weeks old, so they were convinced it would not have survived the night had it not been rescued.

“I feel very proud. We like a successful outcome, we have to be resourceful and we have to adapt, it isn’t something that we’re used to but we’ve achieved it so we’re very pleased.”

RSPCA experts told him it was quite rare for such a young pup to be swimming so far inland.

It is believed the seal had been there for around two days, so was running low on food - which may have been why it appeared to be weak, Mr Southgate added.

“It is quite uncommon - but one or two of the passersby here have seen seals in this area,” he said.

“But this young one obviously separated from its mother so it will be in the best possible hands now.”

Three fire engines including the water rescue unit were sent to the scene and had left the area by approximately 6.10pm.

Witnesses cheered as the seal was helped to safety.

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