Thames gets the seal of approval
Thursday 21 August 2008
If you’re planning a summer bank holiday picnic on the banks of the Thames be sure to keep an eye out for Sammy the seal.
The seal is becoming a bit of a Thames celebrity, and is frequently spotted by workers at Billingsgate Fish Market.
Sammy is now included in the Marine Mammal Survey by The Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Going into its fifth year, the study is building up the first ever comprehensive picture of marine mammal life in river by inviting people to give details of the location, date and time they see seals, dolphins or whales in the Thames.
ZSL’s Marine and Freshwater Conservation Programme Manager, Alison Debney, says: “Sightings such as Sammy are very important; they help to build up a picture of the rivers’ role in the ecology of British marine mammals. We need people to keep an eye out and to detail their sightings at www.zsl.org – it could help conservationists in the future.”
Regularly spotted by workers in Canary Wharf’s Barclays Bank Building, Sammy the seal has been named by Samantha Davenport, who works at the building, after a children’s book by Syd Hoff. She says “It was so exciting the first time I saw the seal, I almost jumped in – it’s a lovely and quite grounding experience to see such wildlife amongst all this steel and glass.”
Sightings of marine mammals in the Thames are even more significant this year; this summer is the 150th anniversary of The Big Stink, a time when the river was so polluted with un-treated sewage that Parliament had to leave Westminster because of the stench.
Between 1920 and 1964, the river was devoid of fish. Flounder and European eel were the first two species to re-colonise the river, and since the mid 1960’s the number of species in the Thames has increased to an impressive 124, which means plenty of food for seals.
Conservationists at ZSL are helping to turn the tide of the 215-mile-long river by conserving the estuary and its fish species; since 2004 over 100 different sightings of grey seals like Sammy, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises have been spotted and are now included in ZSL’s Marine Mammal Survey.
— ENDS —
Notes to editors
ZSL’s Thames Marine Mammal Survey
ZSL’s Thames Marine Mammal Survey is now in its fifth year and operates in the tidal Thames area, between Teddington upriver to Shoeburyness and Sheerness in the outer estuary. ZSL’s conservation biologists will begin to study the findings in detail for trends in species distribution, behaviour and habitat use once there is enough data. The survey is well supported by anglers, bird watchers, pub staff working along the river, the Port of London Authority and Thames River Police, rowing clubs, Londoners and tourists.
The Big Stink
The Big Stink occurred in The Thames in 1858 and many of its urban tributaries were overflowing with sewage; the hot summer weather encouraged bacteria to thrive resulting in a smell so overwhelming that it affected the work of the House of Commons. The hot humid summer was broken by the rain and the crisis was ended. Afterwards a House of Commons select committee was appointed to report on the Stink and recommend how to put an end to the problem.
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. The Society runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research in the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in some 45 countries worldwide