What We Do

Shetland is one of the UK’s most important habitats for common or harbour seals, grey seals and otters. The islands are also one of the best places to see whales and dolphins in the wild.

However even in remote Shetland, marine mammals face challenges as the habitat in which they live comes under increasing pressure.

Since 1987, Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary has been rescuing and rehabilitating sick, injured and abandoned seals and otters so they can be safely released back into the wild where they belong.

We also help coordinate a network of volunteers who rescue whales, dolphins and porpoises that occasionally strand or become entangled on the Shetland coastline.

We are the only sanctuary in the Shetland Islands. Our role is vital as the 14 hour sea journey to the Scottish mainland would often prove too much for distressed animals who have just been rescued.

We work closely with the animal charity Scottish SPCA and local vets when we look after seals and otters, and with British Divers Marine Life Rescue and the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme when we assist stranded cetaceans.

HWS played a key role in the response to the 1993 Braer oil spill and remains a fundamental part of Shetland’s oil spill response plan. In 2021 we completed a major refurbishment of the animal care facilities to ensure we can respond to an environmental disaster, thanks to funding from the Sullom Voe Association, Shetland Islands Council, the European LEADER Fund, World Animal Protection and the J&JD Wilson Trust.

Our work has featured on national and international TV, and received a number of awards, including a lifetime achievement award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2014.

We love the work we do, but without your help we could not do it. If you feel called to support the sanctuary, please click below. Thankyou.