Seals overwhelm Pieterburen sanctuary in Netherlands

A seal at Lenie't Hart creche in Pieterburen (12 Jan 2012) Many of the seals are severely ill

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A seal sanctuary in The Netherlands has been overwhelmed with 360 seals that have been washed up on beaches because of storms and disease.

Many of the seals are orphaned pups, apparently torn from their mothers in heavy seas off the Dutch north coast.

An enormous tent has been erected at the Pieterburen creche in which 100 of the seals are being cared for.

The head of the centre, Lenie 't Hart, said they had not seen anything like it in their 40 years of existence.

She told the BBC News website that the seal population which normally wintered on sandbanks or islands in the Waddenzee had been struck by severe winds that hit the region last week, and also by potentially fatal lungworm.

But she said children's paddling pools had been donated and 35 volunteers from around the world were looking after the seals. A dolphinarium has sent a pallet of fish.

"One hundred seals in a 10 by 40[m] tent makes quite a noise," she said.

Another sanctuary, on the northern island of Texel, has also been inundated with seals.

Last week's stormy weather caused a similar problem on parts of the English coast.

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