Phil the rehabbed harbor seal returns to the Atlantic Ocean

The sound of crashing waves was the call home for Phil, the harbor seal.

"Phil exhibited all of the natural behaviors he was supposed to and was able to go back into his natural environment," said Jennifer Dittmar, curator of animal rescue at National Aquarium.

On Tuesday, Phil's rescue team at the National Aquarium said goodbye and released him back into the ocean in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The team has been rehabilitating Phil since April, months after he was found in Delaware.

"Phil stranded back in December and was being monitored by the MERR Institute and then in April showed signs of debilitation," National Aquarium's Kate Shaffer said. "He had an eye infection, was getting thin and dehydrated. And so the stranding network decided it was time for intervention."

After medical treatment, daily activities, and careful monitoring for 12 weeks, Phil was finally cleared and stable enough to return home.

"It went very smoothly. He checked out his surroundings, got acclimated with the area and then took right off into the ocean," Shaffer said.

The magical moment captivated animal lovers and beach goers alike.

Phil's rescue team hopes he stays in the water and thrives.

"We outfitted him with a satellite transmitter and that will allow our staff monitor his location after his release," Dittmar said. "Since he was an out-of-habitat animal to begin with, we want to make sure that's not a pattern of his and can monitor his location closely."

Phil's release marked the 200th animal rescue and release since this National Aquarium program was founded in 1991.

For those interested in monitoring Phil's location, right now that information is exclusively for the aquarium but the staff will be sending out updates on social media.

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