Exploris Aquarium and Seal Sanctuary have had a busy season to date with our seal rehabilitation program. All of our work is possible because of funding support from DAERA, our vigilant general public and the support teams at DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division and NIEA.
Ann Moreland, General Manager says, “We receive and record a high volume of calls direct to our dedicated seal helpline and our team spring into action, reviewing, assessing and where necessary, rescuing and returning the injured or orphaned pup to our rehabilitation unit where our team can care for them around the clock, if necessary. “
Ann continued, “For our first release this season we have chosen to visit the North Antrim Coast in acknowledgement of the continued support from DAERA and the Conservation Team at the Coastal Zone in Portrush, and to return one of our seals (Albert), to his original location and hopefully into the common seal colony that exists, just off the North Coast.”
Joe Breen, DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division says “DAERA has had a long and successful partnership with Exploris in the protection and conservation of Northern Ireland’s seal populations. I still remember the day we were called out to Albert, a small sad individual with a cut to his face who was grossly underweight. It’s hard to imagine that when you see his condition now, and comforting to know that he is fit and well, and ready to be released back into his natural wild environment.
Amy Robinson, Ellen White and Brendan Moreland brought the seals to Ballintoy, and Amy give us a little insight into the seals journeys. “Hans, a common seal, arrived at Exploris on the 31 July from Mid Island, Greyabbey, was approximately 2 weeks old and had sustained a very nasty cut to his lower left jaw. He was named after the Austrian, Hans Hass who was the pioneer of underwater cinematography and without his development of diving equipment, it we would not have possible to make the BBC Natural History documentaries such as Blue Planet or Frozen Planet.”
She went on to say, “On the 29 August we received a call from the Coastal Zone in Portrush. A common seal was spotted with an injury to the left side of his face. The seal was slightly underweight and reluctant to swim. We immediately sprang to action and with the help of the Coastal Zone and our transport volunteers Albert arrived at Exploris.
Albert of course, is named after the world-renowned Albert Einstein. Born in Germany, Einstein is one of the greatest scientists of all time. As a theoretical physicist Einstein developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern day physics.”
Both seals received extensive medical care from our veterinary practitioners, Downe Vets, to ensure infections were kept at bay and they were housed in the hospital pens before they were well enough to start their journey to rehabilitation.
Exploris Aquarium & Seal Sanctuary records multiple data on the progress of the seals and the first step is to ensure they are injury/illness free and maintaining a steady growth rate. Hans initially was being fed a fish soup as Exploris can’t make seal milk. When he received his teeth he was then weaned onto fish. Albert arrived already weaned so we had to convince him to eat the thawed herring. It took him a few days but once he got the taste for it, he was making his way through 30-40 fish a day.
Once the seals reached around 15Kg and were eating by themselves they then moved to our nursery pool. Just 2-foot-deep it allows them to work out those swimming muscles for most of the day. Albert and Hans met in September in our nursery pool and continued onto our deep pool, weighing approximately 25Kg. This transition to our pre-release pool enables them to spend most of their day swimming, diving for extended periods of time and preparing to survive in the wild.
Both now weighing over 40kg, and having produced a thick layer of blubber to keep them warm during the winter months, Hans and Albert will be released in Ballintoy on 29 November and we would anticipate they will reach their full adult weight of around 300Kg. They have been checked by our vet team, prepared for release by our seal rescue team, inserting a microchip to help identify previously rehabilitated seals. Hans and Albert will be released at low tide to get them the best start to their new life in the wild.
Our 2017/18 theme is favourite contributors to science/our natural world and could be marine biologists, nature/tv presenters, pioneering scientists or taxonomists and you can find out how all our seals progress via our social media and website.