Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Netherlands - Seal Rehabilitation and Research Centre Lenie 't Hart

To celebrate Nicolas Appert's 50th anniversary, our school/department decided to adopt a seal from Seal Rehabilitation and Research Center in Lenia 't Hart in Pieterburen. It's located at the very north of the Netherlands, and is also quite inaccessible by public transport. 

I took 300 pictures of the trip but guess what? I ran out of space in Picasa! Which means I have to make collates to save some space. I have tons of cute seal photos to show, but I can only show some outstanding shots I got from the trip. Sorry!

The Seal Center was not very big but it is filled with passionate people. The staff consists of full team specialists and volunteers from various countries like Spain, and all of them are very helpful. 

When you enter, you will see a souvenir shop as well as information posters about seals. Unfortunately, the posters are written in Dutch. I barely understood some words, but I was lucky to be accompanied by my program head and another person, whom both of them are Dutch. However, there are also guide booklet written in English, so I think it should not be a problem if you can't understand Dutch. They also showed us a very informative video about seal and the dangers they face due to pollution and fish nets (also available in Dutch and English).

We managed to look around the Seal Center before we went to Lauwersmeer coast, which is about 25 km west of Pieterburen. There were another group of people who also adopted the seal and were planning to release the seal together with us. Our adopted seal named after Nicolas Appert (despite being a female seal) was the 6995th seal to be released back into the sea from this Seal Center. The 7000th position was given to an 11-year-old girl who won the cupcake contest judged by the founder of the seal center Lenie t'Hart.

She is 71 years old right now, and she is a really sweet, bright lady with a lot of energy and passion. I'd love to talk more to her! Her husband is also a charming person with a lot of smiles, and whenever he talked about his wife, he seemed very happy and excited, even though he kept saying that his wife was clumsy :)

Since there were four of us students there, we couldn't decide who will be the one to open the box and release the seal into the sea. I suggested we try guessing a random number specified by our program head, and I never expected I would have my guess correct. So I sat on top of the box with kneels down and lifted the 'sliding door' of the box up.

It was really exciting to see the seal crawled/slithered/jumped/walked by sliding its stomach (I don't know what the correct term to use) into the sea. The seal next to me didn't go out of the box after a minute. Maybe it was still confused of what was going on. Surprisingly, the seals did not show any big signs of discomfort during the transport from the Seal Center to the coast.

We came back to the Seal Center afterwards for a guided tour around the facilities. We saw how they prepare the food for the seals (they feed 600 euro worth of herrings to the seals every day!), and how the infected seals are quarantined and treated.

It's a really interesting place, and I kind of wish I could do some kind of short term internship there. I know I will smell like herrings if I work there but looking at those puppy eyes will be my oasis. Also, I think there are still a lot of things to be learned by taking care of the seals, and this kind of job gives you a lot of self satisfaction (if you love what you're doing).

Hope you enjoyed this post! I'd really recommend going to this place if you have a car. Otherwise, taking public transport would be too much of a hassle. It took about 3 hours by car from Wageningen. I can't imagine how long it would take if we were to take the trains and the buses there. There might not even be a bus that goes directly to this place.


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