Silver lining COVID
We’re living through unprecedented history. Whilst devastating for those suffering from or fighting the symptoms and indirect impacts of Coronavirus, there may be glimmers of a silver lining. The outbreak has enhanced our community spirit and we’ve appreciated the importance of our local environment for exercise and natural wellbeing. Let’s hope this persists beyond lockdown.
For seals, impacts were positive during lockdown with reduced human activity around wildlife sites. Seals slept more peacefully without human interruption during moulting. Extra energy is used bringing blood to their skin to grow new fur making them sensitive to cold seawater, so they sleep more on land. For the first time ever, seals slept uninterrupted. Foraging grounds were quieter with less shipping, fishing, tourism and recreation, so seals could find their favourite food (sandeels and dragonets) more easily.
Our charity set up means that throughout lockdown some of our luckiest volunteers could actually exercise to their local seal site, so we hope to have a once in a life time baseline dataset for seals with minimal human interaction across four sites. Quick analysis (not effort corrected) suggests that serious seal disturbance incidents dropped by 26% and seals affected by 60% in the three calendar months March to May 2020 compared to the same months in 2019.
Our supporters benefitted alongside seals as newsletter subscribers (http://eepurl.com/dHdy3j) were able to access virtual monthly meetings since March, so a wider audience globally can see how much our charity achieves to protect our precious marine environment and seals. Following government guidelines, our four rangers took the kit needed to work effectively from home and being resourceful we all soon learned new skills, hosting virtual team meetings and using an online space to share projects. We’ve redesigned our Photo ID system with remote network access that will revolutionise how we work forever.
We celebrated CSGRT’s 20th birthday with our first ever conference – a virtual one at that attended by 700+ different people (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuzvSLkxvtdgbnccHqibILQ/videos ) and immediately followed this with our first ever crowdfunding appeal (https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/protect-endangered-seals-by-funding-marine-rangers ), smashing our fundraising target with donations reaching £21888 in just five short weeks.
Perhaps our biggest lockdown conservation achievement, however, was providing Natural England with the evidence they needed to include seals as a special interest feature in a third Site of Special Scientific Interest in Cornwall between Aire Point and Carrick Du.
We never thought we’d say this, but COVID19 has changed our charity and seal conservation for the better forever.