Sealed with a kiss: Mango and Apricot go home
Rescued seal pups Apricot and Mango enjoyed the sweet taste of freedom as they splashed back into the wild yesterday.
More than 300 excited children from five Dublin schools lined the sun-soaked shore of Bull Island to watch the common seals being released.
The lucky pups were rescued in Northern Ireland several months ago but were returned to the sea in Dublin.
Three-month-olds Apricot and Mango, which had become distressed after being separated from their mothers, were rescued in July by volunteers and brought to Exploris Seal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Co Down.
Mango was extremely malnourished and weighed only 10kg when he was discovered at Rockport, Co Down, while Apricot weighed just 9kg when he was spotted at Keel Point, Dundrum, by members of the public who alerted the animal welfare group.
The animal-care team stabilised the pups and after a couple of days they were transferred to the Irish Seal Sanctuary (ISS) in Co Wexford.
They have thrived since their rescue -- Mango now weighs in at a hefty 30kg while Apricot tips the scales at 28kg.
Sonia Mooney, a volunteer with the ISS, said: "It is absolutely lovely for the children to see the seals being released today and it creates great awareness among them of the importance of protecting our wildlife.
"We have a great relationship with our cousins in Northern Ireland at Exploris. They help us out a lot, so we were more than happy to reciprocate this time."
The guests of honour at yesterday's release ceremony arrived in separate cages and were immediately surrounded by a swarm of schoolchildren armed with mobile phone cameras.
But the raucous audience was hushed into silence on the beach minutes later as the pups were carefully released into their natural environment.
Youngsters from Donabate Educate Together school, Gaelscoil Mide, North Bay Educate Together, Fairview National School and St Malachy's Boys National School in Dublin formed a human corridor along the bay to help usher the seal pups toward their new home.
The watching children broke into applause and squeals of delight as the pups waddled from their cages into the sea.
The two pups swam and lolled about together along the length of the shore for a few minutes before finally striking out to sea and disappearing from view.
ISS spokeswoman Sarah Harman said the organisation had released up to 20 rescued seals back into the wild last year.