London Zoo counts scores of seal pups born in the Thames

PUBLISHED: 11:48 09 September 2019

Harbour seal and her pub picture by Graham Mee RSPB

Harbour seal and her pub picture by Graham Mee RSPB


A new virtual reality experience shows how London’s river is alive with wildlife says ZSL Fundraising Director James Wren

ZSL Virtual Reality experience will raise funds while allowing Londoners to see what lies beneath the waters of the ThamesZSL Virtual Reality experience will raise funds while allowing Londoners to see what lies beneath the waters of the Thames

More than fifty years after being declared 'biologically dead' the River Thames is one of London's best kept wildlife secrets - until now.

The restored 'Mother Thames' - as we refer to the River here at ZSL - is an essential nursery habitat and home to many animals including more than 120 species of fish, two species of shark, short-snouted seahorses and the critically endangered European eel.

This year, ZSL's conservationists completed the first ever comprehensive count of seal pups born in the Thames.

London's Zoo's team tallied up a total of 138 harbour seals pups after analysing hundreds of photos taken during the summer pupping season.

The results of the survey were released this month and form part of a UK-wide seal monitoring initiative.

The promising pup population tells us that the River has a reliable food source and the ecosystem is thriving - a far cry from fifty years ago.

Incredibly, harbour seal pups can swim within hours of birth which means they are well adapted to life in tidal estuaries, like the Thames.

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Born on the sandbanks along the river, by the time the tide comes in, they can swim away on it with their parents.

ZSL has conducted Thames seal population estimates annually since 2013. The most recent published results recorded 1,104 harbour seals and 2,406 grey seals across the estuary.

Despite their flourishing numbers, many Londoners are unaware that the Thames is home to seals and other species, and we want to change that.

Raising awareness and funds will help us to continue our critical conservation work, and hopefully see seals continue to thrive and live alongside the human-led activity in the Thames.

To celebrate the wonderful wildlife in the river and to raise vital funds for our Thames conservation work, we are inviting Londoners to take an underwater adventure to meet some of the extraordinary wildlife that calls the Thames home, allowing Londoners to get up close to seals and seahorses.

Through a virtual reality experience at London Bridge City, users will stand on the bank of the River while looking through a custom-made viewfinder to take a 'dive' into the River Thames (while staying completely dry) and learn all about the different species that reside in the flowing waters while being guided by Good Morning Britain presenter Laura Tobin.

ZSL's Thames Virtual Reality Experience, created using Timescope technology, and supported by the Royal Bank of Canada, gives budding explorers the chance to join ZSL on a free Thames underwater journey through one of London's most important wildlife habitats, from September 6 onwards.

As an international conservation charity, we rely on donations and users will be able to make a contactless donation at the virtual reality experience; we hope this novel approach to fundraising will make a real impact, and show supporters how their donations help us to work towards a world where wildlife thrives.

To find out more about how you can support ZSL's work throughout the Thames and ZSL conservation work visit

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