AN academic has received death threats after a lost seal was rescued from a beach with a tracking device attached to its neck.
The pictures caused outrage on social media, with one viewer saying the person responsible should get a “9mm bullet between the eyes”.
The tracking device, said to have been “glued” to the seal, bore the word “Reward” and a telephone number and email address linked to a member of staff at St Andrews University.
The device appears to be ethically-approved standard equipment for tracking seals and is designed to come off when the animal molts its fur.
But that did not stop social media users lining up to abuse and threaten the people behind the research.
Bryan Small named the academic whose telephone number appeared on the tag.
He wrote: “Cheeky b*****s putting up a reward for their cruelly fitted tracking device.
“F**** scum. Should be a reward of a 9mm bullet between the eyes of the c*** who fitted it.
Log Bob added: “If you bring the device to me then phone. I will tell whoever put it on I have it.
“When they come to get it I will make everyone a video of what I put on them with glue and all have a prize if anyone can tell me how many times I punch the p****.”
Log Bob later added: “Perfect as soon as that b****d is back to work I’ll be phoning him. Pure b****d.”
Billy Sives commented: “Get it off cruel b******s.”
Andrew Bowen said: “Take it off c***ox.”
Lee Berkely Brealey wrote: “Cruel that is take it off him rich.”
Angela Davies Gibbs commented: “That looks so painful.”
Emma Louise Saunders wrote: “Well isn’t that the cutest little thing. Not loving that contraption stuck to the poor baby though.”
The number on the tag links to Dr Simon Halliwell, a production controller in the School of Biology at St Andrews University. Dr Halliwell is involved in the Scottish Government-funded sea mammal research unit.
The tags allow scientists to monitor the movement of the seals as well as the temperature and salinity of the waters they inhabit. It is understood the tags cause the animals no harm and fall off during molting, hence the reward for any discovered.
The seal is believed to have been found on Aberavon beach near Port Talbot, Neath, on Christmas Day.
Richard George, from Port Talbot, uploaded the pictures to Facebook with the caption: “Poor fella came all the way from Scotland to wish me Merry Christmas.”
Richard fed the seal squid and sand eel while he waited for the RSPCA to pick it up after phoning the number to discover the department was closed over the festive period.
However, the RSPCA never turned up and the seal eventually left when the tide came in.
Speaking today, Richard said: “The RSPCA did not attend, apparently the seal had been sighted heading aground several times at several sights over the last week or so.
“He seemed happy, especially as I was hand feeding him squid and sand eels. He stayed pretty close to me as I fished from the shore. Once tide came in he swam away again.
“When I first saw it coming out of the surf he was about 100 metres away from me. I was quiet concerned because at first I thought he had something stuck in his neck.
“When I got closer and realised it was a tracker I was somewhat relieved, but also concerned that such a bulky unit was glued to a Seals neck.
“I was very surprised how quickly it went from banter between friends to death threats from people that I do not even know. I don’t condone violence in any way shape or form myself but understand some people do get upset.
“I don’t actually agree with the trackers myself, they obviously cause some discomfort as the glue would pull against the fur when the neck is moved, plus the D cell battery itself is a lot of weight on the neck.”
A spokesman for the University of St Andrews said: “The Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews has for many years carried out world-leading research in collaboration with government agencies and industry to learn more about the rapid decline in many UK seal populations by fitting them with mobile phone-based tracking tags.
“Scientists at SMRU use SIM cards in the trackers which attach harmlessly to the animals’ backs. As well as shedding light on seal behaviour, essential to protect them from the threats they face, the transmitters also provide information on ocean conditions.”