This autumn the public and the Exploris Aquarium seal rescue team gathered at Knockinelder Beach, Co.Down to say farewell to common seals Loki, Freya and Juno. They were released back to their natural home after being successfully rescued and rehabilitated at the Exploris Aquarium seal sanctuary.

The recovered seals had been saved from various locations in Northern Ireland over the summer months. All three seals arrived at the seal sanctuary after being discovered by the public – abandoned, injured and in need of help by our specialist team.

After an initial assessment each seal began their journey to rehabilitation receiving extensive medical care, to ensure infections were kept at bay and housed in hospital pen whilst learning how to eat fish. Once they reached about 15kg and could self-feed they were moved to the outdoor pools where they learnt how to socialise with other seals. At this stage, all human contact was kept to a minimum to ensure a successful re-introduction to the sea.

On Friday 26 October all 3 seals were discharged from the seal unit as they had successfully reached their target weight of over 30kg and were in good health, ready to take on adult life in the wild.

Amy Robinson, Head of the Seal Sanctuary at Exploris Aquarium said, “Coming into this pupping season we received a lot of very small pups who had become separated from their mothers. Whether this was from human disturbance or inexperienced mothers we will never know. Juno and Freya were seals that came in very small and required around the clock care as newborns. Loki was a different type of rehab. He had spent time with his mother but when it came to being independent he failed. He just didn’t know how to eat fish. It took us about a week to show him how.”

“Knockinelder became our release point last year as the cove provides a great area for the pups first few hours to get used to having no walls as they swim. We never release a seal on its own and through our weekly Weigh-IN we can identify release ‘teams’ with Loki, Freya and Juno being our first for this season.”

Ahead of the release all seals are tagged on their rear flipper to help identify them. Over time this will be used to see how rehabbed seals influence the wild population through breeding. We hope to see Freya and Juno in approximately four years’ time with healthy and thriving pups on the beach.

To date Exploris Aquarium has rescued and released over 500 common and grey seals back into the wild. This wouldn’t be possible without the funding support from DAERA, the vigilant public and our new adopt a seal programme. This new adoption programme allows the adopter to follow their seals journey through rehab for a small fee. The adoption helps fund the fresh fish they eat, medication to make them better and equipment to transport and keep them safe.

Each season the seal rescue team decide on a naming theme for the rescued seal pups. This season ‘Steve the Seal’ chose the naming theme of Gods and Goddess. You can follow the progress of the 2018/19 seals on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @explorisni

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