The seal which has become a common sight at Kew Bridge has taken to making friends with canoeists and paddleboarders.
Christened ‘Wayne’ by regulars at the sports centres under the arches, he has become quite bold in hopping up onto boards and canoes, which has led to the question of whether he’s lonely.
Although we think of seals living in colonies, it is apparently quite common for them to go off on their own. They come together in groups to mate and look after newborn pups, but then it is quite normal for them to go off and be solitary for months, according to Natalie Dyer at the Sea Life Trust in Cornwall.
“They behave quite differently in water” she says. “While on land they tend to shy away and move away from people, in water they’re a lot more confident. It’s like they know they’re much more proficient in the water than humans are”.
They’re curious and playful animals she says, but she offers a word of warning. They have bacteria in their mouths which can cause a nasty complaint called ‘seal finger’ so it’s not a good idea to reach out and touch them, in case they nip.
Her advice, if boarded by a seal, is to stay still and watch it, and if this photograph by Active 360 paddleboard instructor Richard Vallance is anything to go by, Wayne is more than happy to pose for photographs.
At the moment he seems quite happy and has plenty of fish. Come the autumn though, we are likely to find he disappears again, to find a colony and do what seals do in the winter.