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Seals hit the water – the biggest “graduation” of the pinnipeds rehabilitation center


10 grey Baltic seals went to their natural habitat at once. Just 2 months ago the cubs’ health was at risk, but thanks to zoologists’’ care they managed to recuperate and visually grow up. Although not all have gathered in bravery. Kseniya Eremenko had a look at those who were not afraid of the sea.


The sensitive nose feels an alien scent immediately. Cubs of grey Baltic seals are not fond of strangers. So thus – frowning with alarm – they are passing their final exam. There will no longer be free herrings, everyday weigh-ins and – most importantly – humans in their lives. To limit all contact, no-one is let inside.

Elena Andrievskaya. Head specialist of the pinnipeds rehabilitation center: “Now we’re trying to catch animals named Neva, Spasatel and Pogranichnik. We have water and medication reserves. And if something goes wrong, we know what to do”.

This is the biggest “graduation” in the history of the center. 10 sets of curious eyes. The rare – in all senses of the word – species are placed in four designated cars, inside safe cages. It takes two to lift one up – the cubs have considerably grown up in two months. 

Few stops had to be made on the way – to check on crying alarmists and calm them. Meds were not needed – nerves and flippers were ok.   

Kseniya Eremenko, reporter: “Finally, after a long trip the seal cubs will make a first step into adult life. They will be released all together at once, so that the bravest ones lead the others. Specialists are placing their bets on the cub named 22. That was its weight when it got into the center. It is a bit anxious now, zoologists say, because it feels the sea is close”.

This is taking place in a protected area three hundred kilometers from the city. Specialists ask the location to be concealed – not to endanger the new residents. There are no poacher nets here. And next of kin are waiting not far away – just beyond the islands. 

Andrey Pavlov, head of shift at the 35th fire brigade: “How are you? You’ve grown big, today you’ll go home. It was a lot smaller and was very weak, although it tried to bite when we pulled it out”.

Rescuers are having a hard time recognizing what were once scared and exhausted cubs – now turned healthy and fatty animals. If that fateful encounter at the Duderhof Park didn’t happen, the two-day-old cub would not have been rescued. The very same caring passers-by are opening the cages today.

No sounds in the first seconds. No-one is in a rush to walk out. The lively 22 is not taking the lead, but the seal named Sestroretsk is full of determination, digging through the sand with its flippers. Once it had to crawl for two kilometers – hungry and exhausted – looking for salvation. Now it will not have cane and sea cockroaches for dinner – which hurt the stomach – but the fish it will catch. When one of the seals turned around, the hearts of specialists skipped a beat. If an animal returns, that means it is not ready for natural habitat.

Elena Andrievskaya. Head specialist of the pinnipeds rehabilitation center: “That’s normal, it was just looking around. If it asked for a hug and didn’t want to leave, then we would have been scared”.

Vyacheslav Alexeev. director of the pinnipeds rehabilitation center: “We will hardly see them. They are great animas – very emotional and very clever. Although of course we are concerned about their future lives”.

Tracking seals using the GPS is a luxury they yet cannot afford. So they are probably seeing each other for the last time. The 10th graduate is slightly hesitant, but after a short while also descends underwater. Zoologists taught them everything they could. Now let the nature have a say.