Baby Rescue Seal Prepping for Release Into Wild Is the Definition of Sweetness

Shutterstock / jurra8

Are seals truly the puppies of the sea? After seeing this video, I have very few doubts, as the seal inside is splashing around in a bathtub like any dog. In the clip, rescued Harbour Seal Fifi, about three weeks old, splashes around in a moving saltwater bath filled with bits of seaweed and other detritus. Getting these animals used to the conditions they will be facing in open water is an important part of the rehabilitation process, which is a challenging task for rescuers if they wish to save the lives of abandoned pups.

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Fifi’s rescuers have embarked in a course of rehabilitation for this baby seal, in hopes that she will one day be ready for a life on the open water. It’s a hard course of study, and one that take a huge effort—not only for the humans trying to teach another animal how to survive without making it dependent on people, but also on a seal learning all the need to know to live in the wild—but in a very artificial environment.

Related: Baby Seal Playing With Remote Control Toy Boat Is So Precious

“She was abandoned by her mum and would’ve died without intervention,” explains the rescue center in the comments. “The bath allows them to swim in saltwater and interact with seaweed, like their natural environment. When she’s bigger and eating independently she will graduate to the big pool and then be released back into the sea once she’s reached thirty kilograms.”

It’s important during this sensitive time period that the humans at the rescue keep their interactions with the baby seal as brief as possible. Habituation—the process by which wild animals come to expect and even crave attention from humans—is often a death sentence for wild creatures.

Abandoned Seal Pups

The survival rate of baby seals is only about fifty percent, as they are extremely vulnerable in the wild. This is especially true for pups born prematurely, who are often abandoned by their mothers because their hearts and lungs are not developed enough to take to the water within days of their birth, as is expected of them. Most abandoned seal pups become victims of predation or exposure, and a small number as rescued and rehabilitated by services like this one.

But it’s not an easy process.

Seal Rehabilitation Efforts

In the wild, mother seals only care for their pups for about four to six weeks before they are left to fend for themselves, but in that time, they learn a lot about seal behavior and especially how to swim, hunt, and forage for themselves. In nature, seal pups remain constantly with their mothers for the first few weeks of life. If the orphaned pups are lucky, there are other seal pups that rehabilitation centers can keep with them so the animals have some social interaction. Baring that, they try to put a stuffed animal in the enclosure with them.

Int eh wild, their mothers will spend these vital few weeks teaching them the hunting skills they will need for the rest of their lives. Trying to recreate these skills for seal pups in rehabilitation centers has proven challenging, and studies have shown that seals raised in captivity forage farther and longer than their wild-raised counterparts in search of food. This indicates that there is a skillset they miss learning from their mothers that is never recovered.

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