Threatened Exploris aquarium saves five baby seals
Staff at Exploris raced to the rescue of five seal pups that became stranded on beaches across Northern Ireland over the past few days.
The under threat Portaferry aquarium has just two weeks left until councillors at Ards Borough Council gather to decide its fate.
But staff were kept busy this weekend bringing distressed young seals in for treatment at the centre's Seal Rehabilitation Centre.
First a grey seal pup was rescued on Thursday from Portaferry and given the name Titan, and then another grey seal, Pluto, was brought in from Portrush on Saturday.
Yesterday was the busiest day with a common seal rescued from Millisle, a grey seal from Sandy Bay in Larne and another from Orlock in Co Down.
Ian Ringland, who stayed with the grey seal pup that was found in Larne for most of the day until staff could get there, said: "We went to the cafe at the leisure centre at about 11am and we saw people standing on the beach and went down to see what they were looking at and found it was a seal pup.
"We didn't want to leave it alone because we were worried about dogs bothering it, so my wife Krista and daughter Molly and I kept an eye on the seal all day. It wasn't the most active.
"When the guy arrived, he told us it was a girl, about four weeks old and had a respiratory infection, and they're hoping it will be okay. We'll have to go down to Exploris next week and see how she's getting on."
Danny Donnelly, who was also out for a walk in Larne and saw the seal pup, said she had been found washed up at about 10am by local residents.
"He said the seal was about four weeks old and had probably just been weaned from its mother," he added. "It's a great example of the important work done by Exploris."
Last week, Stormont parties joined forces to urge Executive ministers to throw an eleventh-hour lifeline to the threatened aquarium.
An Ulster Unionist motion calling on the Executive to provide regional funding and support to Ards Council was passed by 52 votes to 31, after a 11,000 signature petition demanding that Exploris be saved was handed into the Assembly by Alliance's Kieran McCarthy.
A social media campaign has also gathered momentum.