09/19/2012 04:26 EDT | Updated 11/19/2012 05:12 EST

Quebec seal pups spared execution after public outcry

A pair of harp seal pups at a Quebec aquarium has been spared the death sentence after an international outcry.

The six-month-old pups were scheduled for euthanization on Sept. 15 by the Aquarium des Îles in Quebec, before news of their imminent execution became public, prompting animal lovers around the world to speak out.

Now the aquarium says the pups, named Zak and Mika, will be released back into the wild.

"Yesterday, the Aquarium des Îles received confirmation from Fisheries and Oceans Canada that it had the permission to release its two harp seals at sea," the aquarium said Tuesday in a translated message posted on its Facebook page.

"We therefore intend to proceed with the release of the seals at sea as soon as possible, while taking care to ensure their good health and welfare meanwhile."

The pups had received a temporary reprieve earlier this week after more than 124,000 people signed an online petition.

In response, the aquarium, which is only open seasonally, said the pups would be transferred to another institution that could care for the animals year-round -- if the public could raise $73,000 by Sept. 21 to pay for the costs, a move that sparked accusations of extortion.

For the last 25 years, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has given two captured harp seals to the Aquarium des Îles, where they are put on display. The aquarium usually releases the seals back into the wild after it closes for the fall, but said that they were forbidden to do so this year due to concerns over transmitting diseases.