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Rescued seal pup gains its freedom

Sep 12 2012

Two young seals undulated tentatively along a Haida Gwaii beach before splashing into the freedom of the ocean last week, after the animals spent a summer in recovery at the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

The pups, named Shadow and Midnight Pearl, were flown back to Haida Gwaii by Pacific Coastal Airlines and returned to their home waters by rescue centre staff. Shadow, a premature seal pup was found June 1, by Ryan Ashton, dock manager at the Queen Charlotte Lodge.

Rescue centre staff gave advice over the phone and Ashton created a special formula that he handfed to the male pup to restore some of his strength before he could be flown to Vancouver, rescue centre manager Lindsaye Akhurst said.

"When Shadow arrived at the rescue centre he weighed only five kilograms, which is about half of the normal birthweight of a harbour seal," Akhurst said.

"He also had his lanugo fur, a dense white fur that is typically lost prior to birth, which indicates he was born prematurely."

Centre staff hand fed Shadow for 21-days with a rich milk mixture before he was introduced to fish.

"A month later, Shadow had shown great signs of improvement and was moved to a larger pool where he learned how to find fish on his own," Akhurst said.

When he was released, the seal weighed a healthy 30 kilograms.

This year, the centre, with the help of 160 volunteers, has rescued more than 130 stranded marine mammals. Anyone encountering a stranded animal should call the Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325).

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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