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Hand-rearing harbour seal pups (Phoca vitulina) : the effect of diet and supplementary heat on growth and survival MacRae, Amelia


Hundreds of stranded harbour seals pups (Phoca vitulina) are brought to wildlife rescue centres every year, often unweaned and in poor body condition. Typical hand-rearing diets include artificial milk-replacers and diets based on macerated fish, both normally fed via gavage. Mortality rates for these animals can be high and weight gains on artificial formulas are low. This study was designed to determine the effect of the following treatments on the growth and survival of captive orphaned seals: (1) feeding pups an artificial milk-replacer versus a fish-based formula; and (2) the provision of supplementary heat. Pups admitted to the facility in summer 2007 (n=145) and 2008 (n=98) were randomly assigned to one of two diets and fed until weaning at roughly 20 days of age. In 2008, 25 pups were also provided with a supplementary heat source. Diet and heat treatments were compared using average daily gain (ADG) and mortality rates. In 2007, with pups fed formulas at 8% of body weight per day, pups fed milk-replacer gained more (43 g/d ± 12, mean ± SEM) than those fed fish-formula (loss of 13 g/d ± 6; p

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