Seal Conservation + Rescue
Rescue, Rehabilitate + Release
The process of rehabilitating seals varies depending on age and condition. The following is a general outline of care and treatment that is provided while the seals are with us at Exploris. Note that not all seals will follow this outline exactly.
Orphaned, sick and injured common and grey seal pups are rescued from around the whole of the Northern Irish coastline.
A rescued seal pup is brought back to the sanctuary and is weighed on arrival and thereafter on a weekly basis to ensure weight gain and health. In addition, a general health check is carried out before veterinary treatment is initiated.
As the disease status is unknown, all seals are kept separate in the hospital pens. The pens are behind one-way glass to ensure the seals are not disturbed, but visitors can enjoy watching the pups develop and grown over the period of their rehabilitation at Exploris.
Seal pups are bottle fed a blended mixture of rehydration fluid, herring fillets, salmon oil, antibiotics and vitamins 3/4 times a day, depending on their age and size.
Assisted Fish Feeding
When pups have gained sufficient weight and reached 3-4 weeks of age whole herring are introduced. Seals are assisted with fish until they are able to hand feed or self feed. Weaker pups and in an emergency case are tube fed to ensure they remain hydrated.
Learning to Self Feed
Flooding the pens with seawater enables pups to learn to feed by themselves from the water, the water movement mimics fish swimming and entices the seals to feed.
Once self feeding, free from illness and disease, pups are moved to the outdoor nursery pool. Here they socialise with other seals.
Once settled and feeding well, the weaned seal pups are micro-chipped and moved to the rehabilitation pool. At this stage, all human contact is kept to a minimum to ensure their successful re-introduction to the sea.
When seals have reached their target weight, they are released back into the wild and they are ready to begin their adulthood lives.
Here at Exploris we are continually adapting our operating procedures to ensure we continue to offer outstanding animal husbandry and welfare by following a scientific evidence-based approach. This ranges from using innovative new technology, dietary analysis and enrichment programmes. More recently - pairing up with our local scientific community to gain further insight into the behaviour and personality traits of our rescued seal pups and how they interact with their natural and anthropogenic environment - more on this exciting new research to be reported soon!