WHILE thousands of seals have been suffering at the hands of nature, a number have been saved by marine specialists in the region.

Twelve years after the last serious phocine distemper outbreak, the deadly virus hit the shores once again last summer, killing thousands of seals.

The RSPCA has reports of about 3,680 seals dead around the shores of the UK since the outbreak started in August, with more than 80 reports coming from the region's beaches.

Some seals, however, have been saved from infection and housed at the Scarborough Sea Life and Marine Sanctuary. The centre currently has 13 seals that have been vaccinated against the disease and will shortly be released back to the wild.

"We are trying to get all the seals up to health before we let them back into the wild. Fortunately, we now have a vaccination against the virus, which wasn't available during the last outbreak," said Paul Bullimore, the marine centre's display curator.

"The sanctuary has been closed to be able to cope with the numbers of seals coming here from the South to be vaccinated. We have the capacity to handle them, but it has taken a lot of hard work doing blood tests to determine whether the seals have developed an immunity to the disease."

The sanctuary has three resident seals kept in captivity that will remain in Scarborough for visitors to see. Mando is a Danish seal, while Sally and Bruno are half brother and sister and were rescued from animal dealers three years ago.