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Scientists counting seal pups in Thames estuary for first time

By Alistair Mason, Press Association

Scientists are attempting their first ever survey of the number of seal pups around the Thames Estuary.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has led an annual count of the seal population in the area since 2013, but this year they will be specifically looking at pups for the first time.

ZSL conservation biologist Thea Cox said: "The outer Thames Estuary has long been known as an important habitat for adult harbour seals - now, our first survey specifically of pupping in the outer Thames Estuary will hopefully also show how vital this habitat is as a breeding habitat for these charismatic marine mammals.

"Last year, we estimated populations of 1,104 harbour seals and 2,406 grey seals across the Estuary - an increase of 14% and 19% respectively against 2016's figures. These positive findings support the idea that today's Thames is not the same polluted, biologically dead 'open sewer' it was in the 1950s, but is in fact thriving with wildlife once again."

The study, which runs from July 1 to 4, will be carried out via "a combination of aerial, shoreline and boat-based surveys", according to ZSL, along the Kent and Essex coast.

It will also attempt to gauge the impact of threats to the animals including plastic pollution.

Pic courtesy of ZSL

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