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Back into the wild. Recovered pinnipeds released into the Gulf of Finland

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Three animals from the Center of sea mammals’ preservation have had a graduation party. The grey sea-dogs were released into the Gulf of Finland – witnessed by specialists and journalists.

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Just 6 weeks ago, they were brought in barely alive to the rehabilitation center in Repino. Alexander Odintsov went to the sentimental farewell ceremony.

Its more than 200 kilometers to the Kurgalsky peninsula. Three pinnipeds are delivered there on a special designated transport. Having been brought up by men, they are now ready for adult life. But today, it seems, even Mother Nature is against the separation. Few clicks away from the Gulf of Finland, a dry pine tree fell on the car with the rare cargo.

Number 5, the sea-dog from the Vyborgsky Castle and Shantz, are waiting inside special containers. Sometimes being visibly nervous.

But later – as if understanding that they are about to be free and change their lifestyle – they get calmer. It’s about 700 meters to the open waters, and they cover those in the human hands.

Alexander Odintsov, reporter: “It seems that grey sea-dog Shantz had a quicker recovery than the rest. It’s hard to believe that only 6 weeks ago he was a 14-kiogram baby. Now Shantz weighs 70 kilograms, and it takes the efforts of 6 men to get him to the desired freedom”

Females, as if following the example of those who gave them shelter – humans – tried to be fit even with thick food rations. One gained 30 kilograms, the other – 40. By the way, weight became an exam of sorts for the residents of the Repino center. 

Their graduation party happens at a traditional place – a reserved park. Its location is undisclosed for the animals’ safety.

Vyacheslav Alexeev, head of Center for research and preservation of sea mammals: “The seabed is diverse here, everything is storm-proof. Animals will not go anywhere from here and will be able to meet their own species here too”

At first, former residents of plastic pools are being turned away from the Gulf. They have to readjust and recall the sound of their home. And after some time the containers are opened.

A few seconds later, their flippers mash the sand. Sea-dogs are rushing towards their new life, although just 40 days ago their lives were hanging by a thread. Their fates have been very similar –beat-up and often wounded, they had been found close to places which gave them their names.

Vyacheslav Alexeev, head of Center for research and preservation of sea mammals: “Usually, they were attacked by birds. Or hit the ice or rocks. We made those recover in a record-setting time, usually it takes two-three months. And it’s so great that now we have a specialized center”

Currently, there are 12 more animals going through rehabilitation at the center. Medication, food – not less than 5 kilograms of fish per day – and, of course, spacious pools. Its almost like SPA for the pinnipeds.

Nadezhda Dazhunts, press-secretary of the Baltic Seal Friends Fund: “It is the only specialized facility in Russia now, suited for rehabilitation of sea mammals. The Gulf of Finland sees a lot of construction, shores are being built over, ports are erected. Female species have nowhere to raise children in the winter”

It’s a hard goodbye. Employees of the center have grown used to obedient and clever Shantz, naughty and even aggressive lady from the Vyborgsky Castle and the flirtatious Number 5. They will probably never see each other again. The sea-dogs get further and further away from the shore – sporadically looking back at their saviors, as if thanking them.

Vyacheslav Alexeev, head of Center for research and preservation of sea mammals: “We helped them, we brought them up. Now it’s all up to them” 

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