Norfolk

Norfolk grey seal twin pups R2-D2 and C-3PO 'a world first'

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Media captionThe pups were abandoned by their mother after being born at Horsey Gap in Norfolk in November

Two seal pups, which were believed to be the first wild grey seal twins born in the UK, are the first to be recorded in the world, it has been confirmed.

The pups were abandoned by their mother after being born at Horsey Gap in Norfolk in November.

The seals and blood-soaked sand from the birth site were tested and revealed they have the same mother.

Anne Kirstine Frie, of the Institute of Marine Research in Norway, said: "It is so rare. It is very exciting."

The female and male are being cared for at the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital at East Winch, near King's Lynn, where they were named R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Experts had hoped they were twins and were unaware of any grey seal twins recorded in the UK. The Institute of Marine Research, which carried out the tests, confirmed it was the first record of wild grey seal twins in the world.

Ms Frie said: "It's very unusual.

Image caption They were born on 28 November and rescued after their mother stopped feeding them for 24 hours

"I have never experienced it myself, and my British colleagues who do a lot of fieldwork have never observed it.

"It must happen in the wild from time to time, but we have never had knowledge of wild grey seal twins.

"In the wild they very rarely survive, the both of them, but these are both in good health."

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The seals were rescued and taken to the wildlife hospital after their mother stopped feeding them for 24 hours.

Ms Frie said it was not uncommon for mother seals to be observed suckling two pups, which are not twins.

"The way they had been observed, I believed they could be twins," she added.

"This mother had gone far from the colony, so there were no other female seals close by that could have been the mother of the pups."

Twin grey seals are believed to have been born in captivity in eastern Europe, but Ms Frie said she could not find any details.

Last year, 60,000 people visited the coastline at Horsey Gap, where 800 seal pups were born.

Image caption It is believed that grey seal twins have been recorded in captivity but not in the wild

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