Thames gets the seal of approval
Friday 22 August 2008
If you’re planning a summer 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 the City of London’s Billingsgate fish market.
Sammy is now included in ZSL's Marine Mammal Survey. 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 600 animals including grey seals like Sammy, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises have all been spotted and are now included in ZSL’s Marine Mammal Survey .