Watch the moment ITV Wales reporter Ian Lang captures their release
A trio of seal pups have been released back into the wild after spending months in rehabilitation.
The threesome were found washed up on the Welsh coast by RSPCA officers after becoming separated from their mother.
They were then taken to the Welsh Mountain Zoo, in Colwyn Bay, where they were nursed back to health until strong enough to return to the wild.
On Wednesday morning the pups were released back into the Irish Sea off Penrhyn Bay, but one of them had other ideas.
While the first two swam happily away, the third was more hesitant, making attempts to return to its cage.
Peter Litherland, Animal Collections Manager at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, said its behaviour was unusual but unsurprising.
"Normally they're quite happy to go, they're big and fat and they want to go.
"That one took a long time to make up its mind, but I can't blame it in a way because up in the zoo it's well fed, it knows it's going to get its three set meals.
"It's very daunting for any animal, but give them 10-15 minutes, they nearly always go. It's very rare that we have to take one back."
The group were cared for by experts at the zoo despite the attraction facing some major financial and resource pressures due to lockdown restrictions.
Kim Wood, Director of Living Collections at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, said: "We are known as a centre of excellence in north Wales for the rehabilitation of pups when these young seals become separated from mum and are washed up on our shores."Whilst the zoo has remained closed, our keepers remain as busy as ever, providing care and support for these seals and our many other animals."
All three pups were less than two months old when they arrived at the facility and were unable to feed themselves.Initially underweight at around 13.5kg each, each seal left the zoo weighing between 41kg and 45kg.To help get them reach that healthy weight, each of the seals were fed a diet which mainly consisted of fish soup until weaned.The pups eventually moved onto whole fresh fish, eating up to 7kgs of it a day.
Peter explained: "They all came in as small, quite weedy, sickly, thin pups.
"They've done incredibly well. It's all about food, and the more you can put in, the quicker they will grow."Kim added: "It’s wonderful to see the pups so full of life, at healthy weights and a stage where they’re ready to return to their natural habitat."Returning the seals to the wild is a highlight of the work we do, and a hugely rewarding experience for all those involved."
The zoo continues to work closely with the RSPCA, who identify at risk pups, often washed up, disorientated and in poor health having become separated from their mums.