We loaded the three seals onto the vehicle at around 6:15am. Fifteen minutes later we were off to Gwithian, and the reason that we were releasing them there was because it is near to a large colony of grey seals.
The three seals are called Tiger Lilly, Pluto and Olive. Olive was the first to be loaded onto vehicle, then came Tiger Lilly and lastly Pluto. They came in December and January, each of the seals weighs over 50 kilos, and they were supposed to be released earlier in the year but could not be due to seal pox, which is the seals equivalent of chicken pox! Each seal has been tagged, so can be monitored. Tiger Lilly´s tag number is 42. Olive´s is 34 and Pluto´s is 35.
When we got onto the beach it was around 7.00am, around ten or fifteen people turned up to watch the release, including school children, their teacher and friends and family. There was a short wait whilst the seals where being driven onto the beach. Boards were put up around the edges of vehicle, and the ramp lowered...newcomers to this experience held their breath, photos were taken and ´oooooohs´ and ´awwwwws´ were made.
After a couple of tense minutes Tiger Lilly made her way down the ramp almost got onto the sand until she realised that her fellow companions were definitely not about to follow her! She made a hasty retreat back up the ramp to them. However, five minutes later she decided that she could no longer wait for them, and she was down the ramp, over the sand and straight into the sea without so much as a turn around. We watched her swim off and lots of photos were taken, and the other two seals still remained. For a good ten minutes there was a lot of humming and ahhing between them as they shuffled on the ramp, sticking their noses out and touching the sand, one time Pluto did the same as Tiger Lilly got down the ramp, half-way across the sand before he realised that Olive wasn't following him! After a few more minutes Pluto decided that he could wait no longer, and he was off, although in the wrong direction! He was going sideways and not straight down to the sea, but he found the ocean soon enough and off he went, although perhaps not as confidently as Tiger Lilly, he kept swimming close to shore and there was more than once in my mind when I thought that he might come back ashore, but he didn´t, eventually he swam off and the attention was turned to our last and final seal; Olive.
Olive was very reluctant to go at all, she kept sticking her nose out, hanging off the edge of the ramp and shuffling around. Finally she decided it was safe enough to leave, and she went off to the sea also, and like Pluto, kept swimming near the shore, or going relatively far out and then swimming back inshore again, however, she finally swam far enough out, I took my last photo of her and handed the batteries back to woman who had kindly lent them to me, as the ones in mine went last minute!
It was sad to see them go, but since this was my first time releasing, it was a pretty awesome experience and definitely worth getting up early for!