Airbnb couple host poorly seal pups as pandemic stalls hospital plans

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An Airbnb couple in Cornwall are currently hosting some very unusual guests – six sick seals.

Lizzi Larbalestier and her husband Julian have been caring for 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.

Lizzi explained: "As we were an Airbnb we have been able to have a couple of volunteers at any point in time and it has 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," she told Cornwall Live. "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.”

The BDMLR is planning to build a brand new £80,000 seal hospital but plans are currently on hold due to the pandemic.

In the meantime, Lizzi and Julian have stepped in to help rehabilitate the sick animals.

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Lizzi 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.”

Lizzi is also a UK Blue Mind ambassador who champions caring for the ocean and marine life.

She says that grey seals are "important to Cornish heritage" and need to be protected.

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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 we had a pup 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."

The seal pup season ends in at the beginning of March. Then, lockdowns permitting, the property will return to being an Airbnb.

  • Animals

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