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In search of seals


Due to the abnormally warm winter with no ice in the Gulf of Finland seals are forced to breed onshore. Environmentalists monitor the situation.

The exceptionally warm winter makes it hard for ringed seal pups to survive. Normally, animals would breed on ice, where white little ones are hard to see. But this year there is no ice in the Gulf of Finland, so seals stay onshore, where pups can easily fall prey to foxes, stray dogs and sea eagles.

Saint-Petersburg TV Channel reporter Ivan Uvarov joined specialists of the Baltic Seal Friends Foundation to monitor the situation in the Gulf of Finland from a helicopter. 

Semyon Bodrov, researcher with the Academy of Sciences and member of the Baltic Seal Friends Foundation, explains the expedition routine: ‘We have two binoculars. We are sitting on both sides to watch left and right. We also have a camera and a GPS receiver for vessels.’

Only aerial monitoring can allow of assessing the situation with ringed seal pups. The population is endangered, 90% of this year’s pups are supposed to have died. The extra-warm weather is a stress for animals, their maternity instinct fails and seals abandon their small.

The expedition was short, after just 30 minutes the helicopter landed because there is little ice where seals could breed. The biologists saw just two animals. Researchers believe the situation is a catastrophe, so the helicopter will be in a standby mode all the time.

During the flight, the researchers discovered one more danger for seal pups – sea eagles that have settled next to the seals and hunt their pups. 

Vyacheslav Alexeyev, director of the Baltic Seal Friends Foundation, sounds emotional: ‘We had a wish to drop something heavy on the eagle, but it is an endangered species, too.’

At present, the population of Baltic ringed seals in the Russian part of the Gulf of Finland is estimated to consist of just about a hundred animals. The breeding period will be over by the end of March, and then, animals are expected to concentrate closer to villages and settlements. And that means, the endangered species will depend on people to survive.

Photo and video: St. Petersburg TV channel