Secret seal colony revealed on former military testing site at National Trust's Orford Ness

  • ITV News Anglia's Callum Fairhurst went to see the seals.

A secret grey seal colony on the Suffolk coast has been unveiled after more than 130 pups were born on a former military testing site. 

It’s the third breeding season at the Orford Ness National Nature Reserve in Suffolk.

Around 200 adult seals appeared at the site in 2021 and more have arrived every year as the breeding colony, thought to be Suffolk’s first, established itself.

The adorable pups, which are white and fluffy, can live for up to 40 years.

The National Trust, which looks after the site, has only just revealed the colony's existence as it made sure the mammals were not just passing by.

The adorable pups have a white fur that they shed before going into the sea. Credit: National Trust / Andrew Capell

Matt Wilson, a countryside manager for the National Trust, said: “It's really special. These are really charismatic, really curious, beautiful creatures.”

He added: “It's the first time that they've come to a site [in Suffolk] in big numbers and not only had pups, but then bred and come back and had more pups as well. 

“The first year we had 25 pups, this winter we've had 133. So those numbers are just going up.”

ITV News Anglia was invited to film the seal pups by the National Trust earlier this month, accompanied by staff from the charity. 

One of the seals on the shingles at Orford Ness Credit: ITV Anglia

The nature reserve, which is only accessible for part of the year to small numbers of visitors, can only be reached by a small pre-booked boat. 

Up to 500 seals have been counted at any one time on the shingle that lines the coastal spit. 

Fully-grown males weigh up to 300kg, with female grey seals weighing up to 200kg.

Area ranger Andrew was the first to spot the seals in 2021. He has been tight-lipped about their arrival so the colony can establish.

“I was just on a normal daily walk. And as I came over the ridge, there was kind of like a mass of seals.... 250 seals in one heap,” he said.

“Seal pups are quite cute and they're very photogenic and we just don't want people to disturb them. Let them be in peace, let them have their pups and go through the moult.”

Orford Ness is not the only place with such large numbers of seals. 

Blakeney Point, on the north Norfolk coast, is home to England's largest colony of grey seals, as the population has grown dramatically over the past 25 years.

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