As William Shakespeare famously penned, "Parting is such sweet sorrow." Perhaps it was with that sentiment that the Vancouver Aquarium set seven harbor seal pups back into the embrace of Mother Nature at Howe Sound. Five of the seven pups form part of an ongoing rehabilitation program the aquarium operates. Those pups were tagged with satellite-linked monitors which will allow for real-time tracking. It is believed that by studying their patterns and behaviors post-rehab, the rehabilitation program will evolve to better meet the needs of the seal pups.
"As we strive to continuously improve our rehabilitation and release efforts, the satellite-linked transmitters will offer important data about whether the seals stay in the Porteau Cove area where they were released or if they disperse," said aquarium veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena.
The data should allow for a more precise definition of what weight is ideal for release or best locations to foster success. In short, the aquarium is looking to enhance their release criteria. For those concerned about how the seals were tagged, the special $1,500 monitors were glued to the mammal's head giving them a Mohawk-like appearance.
"We want to know what happens to the animals after they are returned to the wild, what the ideal release locations are and (whether) we should change any of our rehabilitation practices while they are in our care.
"These are important questions that satellite tracking can help us answer."
The batteries should remain effective for one year. It isn't known how long the monitors will remain attached to each seal's head. As per the aquarium, it costs $200 a month to collect data from each monitor. The objective of the rescue program is to teach pups to successfully forage for food and survive on their own.
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Aquarium releases rehabilitated seal pups into Howe Sound