When a baby seal named lli Pika arrived at a rescue center, she was scared and clearly missing her mother. She had been found stuck on top of an oyster trestle bed at an aquaculture farm, surrounded by heavy machinery that likely scared her mother away. To help comfort lli Pika, the rescuers provided her with a “wetsuit mom,” a bundle of recycled wetsuits that resembled a mother seal. She quickly cuddled up to it and fell asleep.
The ultimate goal for lli Pika was to get her healthy and up to a proper weight so she could be released back into the wild. At first, she was quiet and reserved. But as she settled in, she showed her feisty side. She loved her bathtub and didn’t want anyone else near it. When her caretakers tried to clean it, she would slap the brush away and scream at them. This behavior was actually a good sign, as it showed that she was becoming more wild and would be able to compete well in her natural habitat.
As lli Pika grew healthier and reached 13 kilos, she was ready to join the other seals in the rehabilitation pools. This was the first time she would come into contact with other seals, which is a crucial step since seals are social animals. It was like a little kid’s first day at school. She quickly made friends with another seal named Pangolin, and they swam around together, getting used to their new environment.
The pools are the last stage of rehab for lli Pika, where she will learn social cues from other seals, build up her muscles, and learn to compete for food. She has already begun to flourish and is putting on a healthy amount of weight. Once she reaches 30 kilos, she will be deemed ready for the wild.
While lli Pika’s recovery continues, the rescue center is excited that some of their other seals are ready to return to the ocean. Releasing them is bittersweet for the caretakers, who have been with these animals since the start of their lives. But once the seals are released, their instincts kick in, and it’s clear that the open ocean is where they’re meant to be.