On Monday afternoon, a seal was spotted in the Leie river in the city centre in Ghent, East Flanders. The animal appears to be in good health, but curious people are being asked to keep their distance.
The seal attracted a lot of attention from passers-by but the phenomenon is not entirely an exception, according to Nico De Craene of the Ghent fire services. "In recent years, we have received five or six reports of a seal in the Ghent region," he told Belga News Agency.
Still, De Craene asked locals and tourists not to approach the animal. "It looks like a sweet animal, but we ask people to leave the seal alone. Do not approach it. If it feels threatened, it may bite," he said. "The animals have very sharp teeth to catch fish."
While the Ghent fire services suspect that the appearance of the seal may be due to the improved quality of the water in the Leie, Jonathan Meul of Sea Life Blankenberge explained that the animals do not require the cleanest water to survive.
No need to intervene
"A seal swims from lock to lock," Meul told De Standaard. "So, it is not so difficult to get inland that way. I also remember cases of seals on Antwerp's Left Bank, in Dendermonde and in Oudenaarde."
For now, he is not worried as the animal appears to be of average age, and there is plenty of fish nearby, meaning that finding food will not be an issue. Therefore, Sea Life does not see a reason to intervene and try to catch the seal.
"We have asked the city to keep sending us photos," said Meul.
"That way, we can continue to monitor the seal's condition from a distance. Since this is not currently a weak or sick animal, there is no such need. There are enough parameters to monitor its health. For example, if it starts lying more on the shore and would do so flat on its belly. Those are indications that we need to intervene."