Seal rescued after discarded plastic bag causes serious neck injury

The seal, called Gnocchi, was rescued in Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex last month.

Gnocchi the seal was rescued at Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex after he got a discarded plastic bag caught round his neck. (RSPCA/ PA)
Gnocchi the seal was rescued at Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex after he got a discarded plastic bag caught round his neck. (RSPCA/ PA)

A grey seal has been rescued and will require weeks of care after a discarded plastic bag got caught around his neck, causing him a serious injury as he grew bigger and it cut into him.

Volunteers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue charity rescued the seal, called Gnocchi, in Walton-on-the-Naze in Essex last month.

He was taken to RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre near King’s Lynn in Norfolk, where he was given pain relief and antibiotics and the plastic was removed.

Staff said it was a black plastic bag, similar to those used as bin liners.

Gnocchi the seal is recovering at the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre near King's Lynn, Norfolk after the plastic was removed from his neck. (RSPCA/ PA)
Gnocchi the seal is recovering at the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre after the plastic was removed from his neck (RSPCA/PA)

Centre manager Alison Charles said: “My heart actually sank when I realised this poor seal was suffering as a result of someone’s discarded litter.

“You really think you’ve seen it all and then along comes something new – which inflicts horrific injuries and causes so much damage.

“It seems such an innocuous object – but this small plastic bag has caused untold pain and injury for poor Gnocchi and it makes me so cross because it could have easily been avoided if people disposed of their litter properly.

“We have to do more to stop rubbish ending up in our waters and causing such damage to our precious wildlife.

“Gnocchi is going to need weeks if not months of care, his injury is very deep and infected.

“We’ve removed all of the bag from his neck and he’s currently being given pain relief and antibiotics as well as regular salt baths.

“The trouble with these types of injuries is that the seals get something caught around their neck – but they can’t get them off by themselves and so become trapped in them.

“And as they grow bigger, the object then cuts deeper and deeper into their neck – causing these horrendous ‘necklace’ injuries which are sadly becoming more and more common in seals.”

This plastic bag was removed from Gnocchi the seal's neck. (RSPCA/ PA)
This plastic bag was removed from Gnocchi the seal’s neck (RSPCA/PA)

It comes after a seal with a white plastic disc, thought to be a component used in large-scale pipework, was rescued at Horsey Beach in Norfolk on Easter Sunday.

The adult grey seal, nicknamed Mrs Vicar due to her white collar, is also being treated at RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre.

The centre has launched a fundraising campaign to help pay for fish to feed the sick, orphaned and injured seals in its care.

The centre cares for more than 150 seals each year and the cost of mackerel to feed them is rising, costing the charity £3,999 for three pallets of mackerel.

To help support the wildlife centre and provide fish and salt for seals in need, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/alison-charles?utm_term=eBKG6RaPE

In the last two years, the RSPCA has received 8,092 calls about animals injured or caught up in litter.

For details on the Great British Spring Clean litter picking mission, see https://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/events/springclean

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