Rona and Star were both found alone at the Minerstown pupping site within one day of each other – Rona on July 2 and Star on July 3, 2001. When found they were newborn and weighed only 7 kg (Rona) and 7.5 kg (Star).

Newborn Star, found alone at Minerstown on July 3, 2001
Both pups were therefore born extremely underweight (both 3-4 kg less than the normal birth weight of around 11 kg), and it is possible that they may have been twins, although this is pure conjecture. Nevertheless, Rona and Star were brought up' together! Of the two, Star appeared to be shyer and more retiring, while Rona was the extrovert. Rona decided on day 1 that we were her mothers, and constantly sought contact and tried to suck from us (though we could not get her to suck from a bottle, much to our annoyance!).

Rona gives Louise a kiss – indicating acceptance of mother-substitute

She used the pup's distress call as a form of 'conversation', and was therefore called 'Moany Rony'! The two pups soon became inseparable, following each other around the pen and in and out of the pool, and sleeping together in the kennel. As they grew older, Rona seemed to transfer much of her her affection from us to Star – this is one of the benefits of keeping two pups together.

Rona takes the plunge

All hauled out together – Christine (left), Star (centre), and Rona (right).

Portrait of Rona

Portrait of Star

Star and Rona grew well and at an almost identical pace. Nevertheless, they both took two weeks to reach the normal birth weight of about 11 kg. and another 26 days to reach 21 kg. Because the summer of 2001 was particularly bad for disturbance at their birth site, Minerstown, we decided to release them at Ballykinler, which is another seal haul-out site about 10 km further along the coast. They were both fitted with head-mounted VHF radio tags and released together at Ballykinler on August 14th 2001, each weighing 21 kg.

This weighing lark is fun!

Why is everything upside down except you?!