Rescued Seal Pippi Returns To Her Ocean Home Following Nine Months Of Rehab: 'She Is A Fighter'

Nov 19, 2020 by apost team

Seals are known as bright and resourceful animals. They populate the seas, providing beauty for us to enjoy and balance for the fragile ecosystem. Occasionally, these highly intelligent creatures encounter problems. Read on to learn of the following seal pup's precarious situation.

Near the beginning of February 2020, rescuers responded to a call at Dewey Beach in Maryland. Once at the facility, personnel from the Marine Education Research Rehabilitation Institute discovered a stranded grey seal. They then transported the needy animal to the National Aquarium's Animal Care and Rescue Center. Now, nine months later, the rescued seal was finally well enough and could return to its ocean home.

Getting To Know You

Workers at the Aquarium carefully examined the new addition. Since she still had lanugo or baby seal fur, they estimated her age to be no more than one month. The Aquarium staff also found that the badly malnourished and dehydrated marine creature had an infected flipper. Each day, the staff worked hard to care for the poor pup. They grew close to her and named her Pippi Longstocking. By May, the seal was moving toward a release date.

Pippi was no longer the starving, sickly animal rescuers had found on the Maryland seashore. She had managed to double her weight nearly. The 70-pound marine mammal had even made efforts to feed herself. Just when her circumstances were improving, the veterinary staff made a grave discovery. Pippi had developed an ear infection. While this may seem to be a minor complaint for most humans, it is a potentially life-threatening issue in seals.

An Unexpected Twist

To understand why an ear infection could cancel Pippi's release party, it is vital to know a little about seal anatomy. A seal's ear canal makes it difficult for medication to travel through it for treatment. As a result, any antibiotics given would do little to help an ear infection in a seal. Since there are currently restricted medical personnel, testing efforts were limited. This vastly limited the treatments they could offer the seal. Aquarium staff attempted to treat Pippi's infection with antibiotics and hoped for the best.

After some time, the medical team at the Veterinary Neurology and Imaging of the Chesapeake were able to perform more detailed testing on the sickly pup. Pippi's CT scan and radiograph results confirmed the ear infection. Now the team was free to develop a treatment plan for the ailing pup.


On August 22, Pippi was ready for surgery. Dr. Sakthila Jeyakumar, BVSc (Hons I), MS, DACVS-SA from the Chesapeake practice was her surgeon. During the procedure, he removed her entire ear canal and some ear bones. He then permanently closed her ear hole. Dr. Jeyakumar credited the entire medical team with Pippi's success as the first grey seal to have this surgery. He also had high hopes for his patient once her recovery was complete. He hoped she would, "...continue to flourish in her natural habitat."

After the surgery, Pippi returned to the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center for further rehabilitation. The staff carefully monitored her progress and enjoyed watching her grow more robust. After three months of intensive therapy, the team determined that Pippi was ready to return to her oceanic home.

The Long-Awaited Moment

In mid-November, staff that had been particularly close to Pippi gathered at the seashore for the moment they had waiting for since early February. After all, a return to the ocean is the primary goal of their efforts. Although they enjoyed caring for Pippi, she was no exception. 

When the big day arrived, Pippi was transported to Assateague State Park in Maryland. She arrived in a special crate bearing the National Aquarium's logo. Everyone was in place to witness this happy occasion.

Homeward Bound

Once Pippi's crate was placed on the sand, the dream was about to come true. The staff member opened the door of the crate, and Pippi landed on the sand. She was headed home, and nothing could stop her now.

Jennifer Dittmar, Director of Animal Rescue at the National Aquarium, said of Pippi, as reported by People Magazine:

"She is a fighter and we are very proud to have made it to the moment of releasing her back into the ocean."

The crowd cheered as Pippi made her way back to the ocean. Photographers even snapped a few pictures of her trip home. One showed Pippi looking at waves on the coastline. In just a few moments, they were able to snap another of the beloved grey seal back in her natural habitat.

Once their mission was accomplished, the aquarium staff must've felt such a sense of accomplishment. How did you feel hearing Pippi's incredible story? Let us know in the comments, then be sure to pass this on to the animal lovers in your life!

Please scroll below for more stories :-)