This past Saturday, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre released five rescued and rehabilitated seal pups back into their natural habitat on the Sunshine Coast. But for the first time, the Rescue Centre is tracking the whereabouts of the seal pups from afar with satellite-linked transmitters to better understand their foraging behaviours and habitat use.
This is a very exciting development because, for the first time, we will get the opportunity to learn more about where the seals go after they receive hundreds of hours of rehabilitation. The trackers will also give us an idea of how far they disperse, according to Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Aquarium’s Rescue Centre. “We only release seals that we know are healthy and have the ability to survive on their own but, beyond that, we know very little about their movements after they’re released. This gives us an amazing opportunity to monitor their whereabouts and activities post-release,” she says.
Why is this post-release monitoring important? It reflects the Aquarium’s commitment to improving the lives of rescued animals not only while they’re in our care, but also after they are returned to their natural habitats.
Satellite tags, provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, were attached to the top of the seals’ heads where they will stay attached to the seals’ pelage for approximately six to nine months, until the seals moult. In this pilot project, Rescue Centre staff will track the seals’ movements via satellite in the hopes of learning more about their foraging behaviour and habitat use.