A starving four week old grey seal pup separated from her mother and close to death in Portstewart over Christmas is now recovering well.
Little Ness is happily gulping down feeds of fish and putting on weight under the watchful eye of staff at the Seal Sanctuary in the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry, Co Down.
Had Ness not been recovered by a Northern Conservation Team Ranger on December 30 she faced certain death, according to Exploris Senior Aquarist, Tania Singleton.
“We were on our way to Glenarm to rescue a seal there when we got a call about another distressed pup in Portstewart.
“She had some baby fur on her back flipper which would indicate she was about four weeks old.
“She was seriously underweight and dehydrated and was howling for food constantly because she was so hungry.
“I believe that she may have got separated from her mother with the storms over Christmas and she was just wandering around.
“She was so, so thin and weighed nine kilograms, six kilos what she really should have weighed with proper feeds from her mother.
“If she had not been rescued she would have not survived. She absolutely would have died.”
The sanctuary comprises six hospital pens, food preparation room, nursery pond and large pond with underwater viewing area.
Tania explained that Ness had been given an intensive feeding and rehabilitation programme to help her put on weight.
“For the first week we tube fed her a kind of fish soup which also contained salmon oil every four hours and that helped her because she was badly dehydrated.
“And yesterday we began to feed her chopped up fish in a pan and she will move to the outdoor pens once she gets to 20kgs.
“When she reaches 40kgs - which may take three months - we will release her into Strangford Lough here.”
So how did this poor little pup come to be named Ness.
Tania revealed: “Every year we have a theme for the pups we rescue and this year’s theme is rivers, so she’s named after the River Ness in Scotland.”