DWT seal project celebrates return of 'Molar' the seal

 19th Oct 2016


Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is excited to learn that a seal photographed at Portland Bill twice over the last few days, is also known in Cornwall.  The female grey seal, named, ‘Molar’ was recorded by Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust (CSGRT) in St Austell Bay in November 2014, and hadn’t been seen for two years.

DWT’s Dorset Seal project started in 2014, and works closely with CSGRT. Photo ID catalogues compiled by each organisation help with identification.  Each grey seal has a unique set of markings which means that individuals can be named and recognised.

Sighting teaches conservationists about how far & frequently seals travel

Molar, named for a distinctive marking on her neck, is the first seal photo identified in both Cornwall and Dorset.  Recording her movements enables conservationists to learn more about how far and frequently they travel, and informs protection measures.

"Delighted to see her again"

Volunteer for CSGRT, Rob Wells said, “Two years ago, when I photographed Molar, I was sure she’d be recognised again, but then she disappeared for two years.  Now I am delighted to see her again and for her to be our first Cornwall to Dorset seal link.  Molar proves that our photo-identification project really works and is a fabulous, non-invasive way of monitoring the lives and movements of our seals.”

We need to conserve this globally rare species 

Rob added, “Molar has highlighted the fact that our grey seals really are mobile animals and that conserving this globally rare species needs not just isolated protected areas, but a wider network.  We have around 40% of the world population living around our British shores and have a responsibility to conserve them.”

This shows what can be learned about these amazing animals 

DWT volunteer, Sarah Hodgson, runs the Dorset Seal Project.  She said, “We have been monitoring seals for several years now and it’s really exciting to have our first match from outside Dorset.  It shows what can be achieved by developing and sharing our photo ID catalogue and what can be learned about these amazing animals.”

Sue Sayer who set up the seal photo identification catalogues for CSGRT in 2000 said, “I recognised Molar straight away from Sarah’s photos and was delighted to discover we have shared seals with DWT.  I would love to find out where Molar spends the rest of her year! Despite being an easily identifiable seal, I haven’t spotted her in any of the photos submitted by our extensive network of volunteers who routinely survey seals on their local patch.”

Have you seen a seal? 

DWT is appealing to members of the public to report any Dorset seal sightings, with photographs if possible.  DWT stresses the importance of not disturbing seals by trying to get too close.  Please send details of sightings to or via DWT facebook/dorsetwildlife or Twitter @dorsetwildlife.  Find out more about seals in Dorset here.                                             

Editors Notes

Dorset Seal Project

The Dorset Seal Project was started in 2014 to find out if any of the seals sighted in Dorset were resident or regular visitors. Since then there have been over 250 sightings of which over 100 were recorded in 2016 alone. There are currently 20 recognisable seals in our photo ID catalogue, of which 10 were recorded at Portland Bill. 1 individual has been regularly recorded in the same spot over the last 3 years. As well as grey seals we also have a small number of harbour seals living in and visiting Dorset. Seal sightings cover the whole stretch of coast from Christchurch to Lyme Regis and have occurred throughout the year.                      

Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust: Research Communicate Engage Conserve

CSGRT is an evidence based conservation charity (number 1162936) passionately protecting Cornwall’s precious marine life and environment. Photo identification research of individual seal movements is vital to develop effective conservation strategies for this charismatic species. Research findings about individual seal biology and ecology help CSGRT to give seals a voice in policy and planning.  

For more information please contact Sally Welbourn at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620 or phone Julie Hatcher at the Fine Foundation Marine Centre, Kimmeridge on 01929 481044 (for enquiries on Friday 21st October, please phone Julie on 07969 696876)

Working for a secure future for Dorset’s wildlife enriching the quality of life

Follow us on Twitter @dorsetwildlife and facebook.com/dorsetwildlife

Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living.  Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 26,000 members and over 44 nature reserves.  Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve.  DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.



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