An Airbnb owner has transformed her holiday rental into a hospital that has helped save the lives of more than 100 injured seals.
Volunteers Lizzi Larbalestier and her husband Julian spend their spare time rescuing stranded pups around the coast for the charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR).
With a lack of hospital space and other volunteers not able to house them due to Covid, the couple have stepped in and offered their premises that would normally have been rented to tourists.
Two seals can now stay in the Airbnb studio and four in their garage in Perranporth, at any one time.
Seals rescued by the charity are typically held at BDMLR’s four-unit hospital facility in mid Cornwall, but this often reaches capacity.
Pups go there straight after they have been rescued with Lizzi now offering a much needed “hospital overflow” where they are initially treated before they can be moved on.
Lizzi said: “Our Airbnb’s now tarpaulined to within an inch of its life with seal pens in it.
“My husband isn’t sure if it will ever smell the same again.
One the of the seal residents Picture: Lizzi Larbalestier/SWNS
“We have acted as overflow for the BDMLR seal hospital since the start of the pup season in September as there are not enough facilities needed to care for them all.
“Through here and the main unit we have ten pens which have looked after 111 pups. More than 100 have been through here. We have four pens in our garage and two in the Airbnb studio.
“It has been a busy season for pups this year. We have had more than 400 call outs with around a quarter brought in for rehabilitation. This has been anything from public disturbance, separation from their mums, fishing line entanglement to mouth and eye infections.
“The pups get rescued by volunteers and brought into the hospital where the vet surgeons will check them over. There are other medics and volunteers that also help out and it is a real team effort. We offer food, care, hygiene and medication. Full animal care while they are waiting to go to larger rehabilitation.
“It can be anything from an overnight stay to the longest pup we had was 17 days before a rehab space was made available.”
After the hospital treatment, the pups are transferred to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary or West Hatch RSPCA facility where they are looked after ahead of being returned to sea.
Lizzi added: “We offer care at the most crucial time just after they have been rescued. The previous hospital had facility for four pens but that was too small for some time. Other volunteers have previously given up their home space but due to Covid restrictions this was no longer possible.
“As we were an Airbnb we have been able to have a couple of volunteers at any point in time and been very easy to keep it open and have the pen space.
“We had six seal guests in the Airbnb over Christmas which was the most we could accommodate.
“This is absolutely where lives have been saved. We are aiming to build a ten pen hospital as there are just not these facilities available. Without enough hospital space they don’t stand a chance of survival.”
How the Airbnb looks now Picture: Lizzi Larbalestier/SWNS
Mr and Mrs Larbalestier have stepped in to help with the overflow while plans to build a new “dream hospital” for ten seals have been on hold due to the pandemic.
She added: “The pups are really amazing creatures and it’s been very emotional spending so much time with them.”
Dan Jarvis, BDMLR area co-ordinator for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said the number of seals it rescued here had doubled in two years.
He said the increase was thought to be down to a combination of stormy weather, marine pollution, more seals being disturbed by people and dogs, and more people out reporting injured seals due to tourism expansion and the rising popularity of recreational water sports.
The charity has now launched a Crowdfunder campaign to push ahead with a new purpose-built hospital for 2021.
Mr Jarvis said: “It is costing around £80,000 – the biggest project that we’ve done”.
To donate visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-build-a-new-seal-pup-hospital