Freddie the seal

Freddie the Seal medic set to launch campaign to protect Thames wildlife following dog attack

A medic who cared for the seal attacked by a dog along the banks of the Thames last month is calling for further protection of the river’s wildlife.

Popular south west London seal, nicknamed Freddie Mercury, was put down after being mauled by an off-leash dog near Hammersmith Bridge on Sunday 21 March. 

British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) medic Mary Tester, 38, was in charge of monitoring ten-month-old Freddie and was involved in his rescue after the attack.

Freddie was treated for a broken flipper and dislocated joint in South Essex Wildlife Hospital before the decision was made to put him down.

The dog’s owner, barrister Rebecca Sabben-Clare QC, apologised and made a donation to the Wildlife Hospital, but faced no charges.

California native Tester, now based in Mortlake, is working with others in the community to push for the further protection of marine wildlife on a legislative level.

Tester said: “What happened was completely devastating to myself and the community. 

“I’ve worked with hundreds of seals during my career but there was something genuinely magical about Freddie. 

“He was a beacon of hope for many during lockdown.”

Freddie the seal
South west London’s famous seal, Freddie Mercury. Image credit: Mary Tester

Tester explained how seals are overlooked when compared to other animals in the eyes of the law. 

“There is a legislative vulnerability that seals have.

“Everyone knows that if your dog attacks a deer in Richmond Park you’re in trouble and it would be good if seals were protected in the same way – the best way to make that happen is more support from MPs who are in the position to make the changes that the public has already shown massive support for.” 

Once the scope of the campaign is decided locally, a government petition will be put forward.

Tester and other activists are also working to create more community awareness around Thames wildlife such as permanent signage aiming to give the public information on which animals may be nearby.

Although south west London will miss Freddie, Tester hopes to channel her grief into ensuring other seals avoid the same fate.

She added: “The last thing that I want is for yesterday’s news to make tomorrow’s headlines.”

To keep up to date with the campaign, follow Freddie Mercury’s Facebook and Twitter.

Featured image credit: Mary Tester

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