Despite bonding quickly with us and trying to suckle on us, we could not persuade her to suck from a bottle. However, she was most obliging about being tube fed, and reached 11 kg weight in 10 days. It was when Tara was newly arrived that we had the idea of adding digestive enzymes to the milk formula, particularly to help her body make best use of the high fat content of the milk, and we were amazed at speed with which she gained weight after the enzymes arrived – about half a kilogram a day. She was extremely sociable and playful and loved to play with the hose.
Until Caelan was also released on August 14th, Tara went to and fro from the sea on her own volition. While she was in the pen, we tube-fed her as usual. One early morning we were woken by the sound of a pup crying – and found Tara had come back from the sea and was trying to push her way through the closed gate of the pen! We opened the gate and let her in! During this time Tara maintained her weight at about 19 kg.
The day of Caelan's release on August 14th, the two pups swam and dived together nearby in the bay. Thereafter they seemed to swim and dive separately in the bay. Tara continued to return to the pen once a day, but from August 17th we stopped feeding her. Research in Canada has found that wild pups do not eat fish while they are still suckling from their mother. We therefore thought that Tara might not start to feed herself until we stopped feeding her completely. After a further day, she stopped returning to the pen. Both pups left the bay on August 20th. Tara swam to the mouth of Strangford Lough, but thereafter we were unable to locate her until she returned two weeks later on August 29th. She came straight back to the pen, and seemed healthy, but tired. She had, in fact, lost 4 kg. We gave her one tube feed (hopefully an energy boost) and she went back to the sea. She remained, diving, in the bay for a day, and then we managed to track her to the southern Mourne coast, just north of the entrance to Carlingford Lough, which is about 60 km south of Millin Bay. On September 27th she returned to Millin Bay and hauled out just below the research centre.