South Scotland

St Abbs seal pup increase 'encouraging'

Seal pup Image copyright Simon Goodall/NTS
Image caption A video has captured the struggle of one seal pup to survive

Conservationists have welcomed a rise in grey seal pups born at St Abbs in Berwickshire as both "interesting and encouraging".

Ongoing monitoring by National Trust for Scotland experts has shown an increase of at least 10%.

It found the number of grey seal pups had increased from 556 in 2014 to 631 pups last year.

The monitoring work at the Scottish Borders site will continue to see if the trend is short or long-term.

Liza Cole, property manager at St Abb's Head, said: "Scotland and the UK hold over 40% of the world population of this species.

Image copyright David Barrington
Image caption Monitoring will continue to see if the rise in pups is a long-term trend

"It is good to see so many pups on our beaches, as the grey seal is actually one of the world's rarest.

"Grey seals are such a regular sight along our coasts, it is actually quite hard to appreciate this fact at times.

"However, it is not clear what our counts mean for the grey seal population as a whole at this time as many seal pups won't last their first year."

Nature conservation adviser Lindsay Mackinlay said the figures were "interesting and encouraging" and something they would keep an eye on in the "foreseeable future".

Image copyright David Barrington
Image caption It appears the grey seal colony at St Abb's Head is one of a number on the east coast of the UK to have seen a rise in pup numbers

"At this time, it appears that other grey seal colonies along the east coast of the UK have witnessed large numbers of seal pups being born in 2015, although we do not know for how long this trend will continue," he said.

"I believe the Farne Islands colony saw similar increases to us but the seal pup counts at Blakeney Point in Norfolk remained stable in 2015 after several years of massive growth."

A video by trust cameraman Simon Goodall has also captured the struggle of a seal pup for survival.

Ms Cole added: "This video is the best way to see our seal population up close.

"Trying to access our beaches can be dangerous and would disturb the seal population, so we'd encourage wildlife fans to view from the comfort of their own homes."

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