Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

“It’s fantastic to get the first accurate population estimate of harbour seals in the South East. We can use this as a baseline for future surveys to be compared against, so we can determine the health of the harbour seal population”

Grant awarded - £500

ZSL is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.

The grant went towards the costs of the first comprehensive harbour seal survey in the South East which ZSL carried out during August 2013. The survey was timed during the harbour seal moult period, where the majority of harbour seals haul out onto sandbanks to moult their coat, so that the most accurate count of harbour seals could be completed. The survey consisted of three aerial, two boat and two land-based transects, to cover both the coastal and offshore area between Felixstowe (Suffolk) and Deal (Kent).


482 harbour seals were counted during the survey and from this, ZSL calculated a population estimate of 670 harbour seals in the South East, as per protocol set by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU). This is the first accurate estimate of the South East harbour seal population. ZSL plan to complete the survey, with the same methodology, annually so that any change in harbour seal number can be detected. An additional 203 grey seals were counted during the survey. The harbour seal population estimate is 670 individuals.

A large press release was developed alongside the survey and was seen by over 70 million people. The press release also highlighted ZSL’s new interactive seal map, which shows the results of the 2013 survey and allows members of the public to report seal and porpoise sightings. This has been used by 4900 people from 76 countries.

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