Phil the seal was released at Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey after several months of rehabilitation at the National Aquarium. The release marks the Aquarium's 200th animal rescue release since the program was founded in 1991.
“The continued expansion of our animal rescue program, including staff, volunteers and facilities, led to 100 successful rescued and released animals in the last four years alone,” said Jennifer Dittmar, National Aquarium Curator of Animal Rescue in a statement.
“Returning a healthy animal to its natural habitat is always a joyful occasion for our team and it further provides us with the opportunity to inspire the public to make thoughtful choices each day to help our aquatic populations. Stories like Phil’s bring the issues to life and create meaningful links between our actions and the differences we can make.”
Phil was rescued by the team in April after being stranded nearly 12 miles inland in Delaware. He got stuck in a muddy area and was showing signs of declining health so the animal rescue team pulled him out.
Phil was treated for dehydration, an eye infection and a neurological condition. He was closely monitored for 12 weeks before the animal rescue team decided it was time for him to go back into his natural habitat.
"The successful rescue, rehabilitation and release of Phil is the culmination of a combined team effort between the stranding network, local enforcement entities, and the local community who helped to watch over Phil during his winter stay in Coursey Pond,” said Suzanne Thurman, Executive Director of the Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute (MERR) in Delaware.
"Phil’s amazing journey is a testament to the importance of our dedicated stranding network members, with more than 15 organizations responding along the mid-Atlantic coast. The collaboration of our expert teams is essential to our ability to help animals like Phil, and thousands of others each year, to live safely in their natural habitats. “
The National Aquarium's Animal Rescue program has been responding to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles along the Maryland coast since 1991.
In December 2016, the National Aquarium announced plans for the construction of a new Animal Care and Rescue Center in Baltimore City’s Jonestown neighborhood. This will provide a new home for the care and rescue operations of the Aquarium’s 20,000+ animals. Construction is expected to be done in early 2018.