Leo was found at Minerstown, Dundrum Bay, on August 14 2001 – the same day that we released Rona and Star! He was in a very bad way – his body was rather stiff and he was covered in small cuts, and he weighed only 10 kg, which is less than a newborn pup, although Leo must have been about six weeks old.
Leo immediately after rescue -
in the bath for safe keeping while Rona and Star were being released.
Leo turned out to have septicaemia and the stiffness in his hind quarters was most probably due to septic arthritis. We therefore added an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medication to his milk as we tube fed him. Unfortunately, Leo did not quite appreciate that we were trying to help him and made every effort to bite the had that fed him! It therefore took two people to feed him. We also had trouble getting him out of the pool to feed him, because – unlike with most of our pups – we couldn't just grab him by his hind-flippers, because of his pelvic arthritis. Despite all this, he made excellent progress, recovering gradually from his illness, gaining about half a kilogram a day over the next 20 days, and turned out to be a very handsome pup.
Leo on the mend – turning out to be a very handsome pup!
Only 20 days later Leo showed no further signs of hind flipper stiffness and weighed 21 kg, and we therefore decided he could be released on September 3rd. We decided against releasing him at Minerstown because of jet skis and other frequent disturbance there. As with Rona and Star, therefore, we released him at Ballykinler, where there is a large colony of harbour seals. He behaved very well during the car drive, looking out of the car window and taking an intelligent interest in the journey!.
"Are we there yet?"
When we release pups at Ballykinler, it is always by courtesy of the army training camp, and we have to be escorted through the very extensive site to the shore. For Leo we need hardly have gone to all that trouble, however, because by evening he had swum the 10 km back to Minerstown! By the early hours of the next morning he was making a series of feeding dives over over a minute. We were so pleased we cheered him on from the shore while recording his dive times! He seemed to be fishing very close beside the haul-out site and one day we watched him diving in just a few feet of water, very close to the Minerstown beach. For the next two and a half months Leo made Minerstown his head quarters, sometimes paying a brief visit to Ballykinler. After a few days he graduated to diving several hundred metres offshore, and for the next two and a half months we usually located him somewhere between Minerstown and Ballykinler. The day after his release he hauled out with the other seals at Minerstown. On the first occasion a couple of older seals seemed to be giving him a bit of a hard time, but from then on there was no trouble, and Leo seemed to be an accepted group member. Each time we saw him hauled out he looked nicely rounded and plump! On September 21 we saw him hauled out close beside another pup. The last known sighting of him was on November 2nd at Minerstown and the last radio signal was on November 18th, diving quite close in to the shore at Newcastle (SW Dundrum Bay) , at a spot we have noted be be a popular foraging area for our pups.
Leo hauled out at Minerstown, November 2 2001, two months after release