River Adur seal Riviere: Shoreham Wordfest talk will give fascinating insight into our resident female

Resident seal Riviere is loving life in the River Adur in West Sussex and her presence is helping experts to study her behaviour, so they can learn more about how seals interact with river ecology.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 4:23 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 4:29 pm

Having been rescued from a beach in Belgium in August 2019, Riviere made her way to Shoreham after being cared for by researchers, rehabilitated and returned to the sea.

Since May 2020, Sussex zoologist Stephen Savage has been following her movements and he will be sharing his findings in a talk at the Ropetackle Arts Centre on October 11.

He said: “The resident seal Riviere is still delighting locals who spot her as they walk along the River Adur. The presence of this seal has greatly added to our understanding of how seals interact with river ecology.”

Riviere is often seen in the Adur Estuary at high tide and further upriver, north of Upper Beeding, at low tide. Picture: Stephen Savage

Stephen said the seal had attracted a great deal of interest and the public had played an important part in the study by sending in sightings and photographs.

Detailed mapping of the natural marking of Riviere’s fur patterns has led Stephen to discover that a seal seen at Henfield back in May 2020 was in fact Riviere.

He explained: “Two seals were observed in the river at that time but it was difficult to tell them apart. We now know that Riviere remained and the other seal returned to the sea.”

Riviere was named because of her origins. She was rescued from a beach in Belgium on August 14, 2019, and returned to the sea on November 6, 2019, with an ID tag which enabled Stephen to trace her origins after she arrived in Shoreham.

Riviere is often seen in the Adur Estuary at high tide and further upriver, north of Upper Beeding, at low tide. Picture: Stephen Savage

Stephen said: “I have stayed in contact with the Belgium researchers, who have been delighted that Riviere is safe in Sussex and been fascinated by her exploits.

“Two other harbour seals have been observed for a few weeks at a time in the River Adur this summer, although these were mainly seen in the Adur Estuary.”

Seals use up a lot of energy when swimming, so they need to rest on land.

Stephen said: “If you spot a seal while you are walking along the riverbank it’s important not to disturb it, especially if it is hauled out as this is when they rest, digest their food and replenish the energy used when swimming and feeding which is essential for their health.

Riviere is often seen in the Adur Estuary at high tide and further upriver, north of Upper Beeding, at low tide. Picture: Stephen Savage

“This is quite different to when a seal is in the water, where they feel safe and are often inquisitive and curious.”

Stephen is keen to hear from anyone who has spotted a seal in the river or sea to aid his work on Sussex seals. He would like to receive information including where the seal was spotted, the day and time, if the seal was swimming or hauled out.

Photographs are also useful as they can be used to determine the species, can provide information of the location and close-up photographs can be used to identify individual seals.

Sea mammal sightings can be reported to [email protected]

To help share what he has learned about Riviere and provide an insight into Sussex seals, Stephen will be giving an illustrated talk, Seals Come to Shoreham, at the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham, at 7.30pm on October 11, as part of the Shoreham WordFest programme. For more information and booking, contact 07515 800957 or visit www.shorehamwordfest.com/whats-on