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6 rescued seals released into the wild after being separated from their mothers

After weeks of intensive care, six rescued seals have now headed back into the wild in what is the first seal release of this year's rescue season, according to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society.

Members of the organization, which recently became a registered charity, have been working closely with the seals, which were abandoned by their mothers as pups.

The six animals were released on Thursday morning at Iona Beach in Richmond.

“When they’re coming in, they’re only a few days old." said Lindsaye Akhurst, the manager of Vancouver Aquarium Mammal Rescue Centre.

"They’re usually dehydrated, malnourished … We’re feeding them five times a day. We’re tube feeding them. Once we get them stabilized, we can actually work with them a little bit more, do physical exams, get blood work and see what else is going on."

She said many of the animals that come into their centre are there because of humans.

"They have plastic that is either ingested or wrapped around their necks. With the harbour seals, they’re getting separated potentially because of busy beaches," Akhurst said.

The group then gets the animals ready and equips them with the necessary skills to survive in the wild.

Acorn, who was brought in June, was one of the pups impacted.

He was born prematurely, underweight and only days old he was separated from his mom.

“His rehabilitation process went really well. He’s been in a pool for the last month and a bit with a few of his cohorts who are coming today to be released," said Akhurst.

"So it’s really great to see him go from that six-, seven-kilo animal to 24 kilos now," she continued.

Leyla Jamba, a volunteer with the group, said it was bittersweet to see them go.

"It’s awesome. I was tearing up. It’s really sweet. It’s bittersweet," she said. "It’s really awesome knowing that we're giving them the skills that they need to be successful in the wild. So, it’s really heartwarming. It’s really nice."

Akhurst agreed, adding that it's rewarding for her and the team.

“I love seeing the animals going back, but I love watching the people who put in the hard work into it too," she said.

She also said not all the animals who are brought into the centre make it, but the team runs necropsies after their deaths to learn more about the animals and how they died, which can be useful for research.

Akhurst said the centre will keep track of the released animals, which are microchipped, and continue to welcome new ones that need rescuing. 

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