The owner of an AirBnB in Cornwall has temporarily transformed her holiday let into a hospital for poorly seal pups. Lizzi Larbalestier and her husband Julian have been housing sick seal pups since September at their home in Perranporth.
The couple are volunteers for the charity British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), who have so far saved 111 sick seal pups this season.
According to Lizzi, the property can house two seal pups while four can stay in the garage at any one time.
She said: “Our AirBnB’s 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.”
Seals rescued by the charity are kept at BDMLR’s four-unit facility in mid Cornwall before being taken to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary at Gweek or the RSPCA’s West Hatch centre in Taunton.
But the BDMLR facility often becomes full.
Lizzi said: “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.”
In the meantime, Lizzi and Julian have stepped in to help rehabilitate the sick animals.
She said: “It’s been really emotional. They’re amazing creatures and you learn something every time you interact with a seal pup.
“I do it because of my love of the ocean, my love of looking after the planet. We are really grateful to be part of such an amazing team of volunteers.”
The seal pup season ends in February/March. Then the property will return to being an Airbnb.
Lizzi is also a UK Blue Mind ambassador who champions caring for the ocean and marine life.
She said grey sales are “important to Cornish heritage” and need protecting.
She said: “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.”
“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.”
Dan Jarvis, who is the BDMLR area co-ordinator for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said the number of seals rescued in the county had doubled in two years from 54 in winter 2018-2019 to 111 so far in winter 2020-2021.
According to Dan, climate change is increasing the number of storms happening in the region, which is directly affecting the mortality and breeding success of these animals.
Meanwhile, as our population continues to increase so do the number of disturbances from humans, which is only escalated as Cornwall grows in popularity as a tourist hotspot.
The charity launched a Crowdfunder campaign on Friday to push ahead with a new purpose-built hospital for 2021. The new hospital is expected to cost £80,000 making it the biggest project BDMLR has been involved with so far.
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