Wednesday October 04, 2023

Helsinki Zoo to keep rescued Saimaa ringed seal

Published : 13 Feb 2020, 21:20

Updated : 14 Feb 2020, 10:08

  DF Report
Baltic ringed seal. Pixabay photo.

Helsinki Zoo has been granted a special permit to keep permanently a Saimaa ringed seal rescued from Puumala in the Saimaa region of Finland, said the City of Helsinki in a bulletin.

The young seal was first treated at Helsinki Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital. After recovery, the seal was moved to a temporary pool at the zoo, where it will stay until a new seal pool is constructed.

The board of the Helsinki Zoo Foundation has approved the construction of a seal pool in the strait of Hylkysaari, an island next to the Korkeasaari Island of Helsinki Zoo. The seal’s new home will have a 200-square-metre freshwater pool accompanied by a 100-square-metre land area. The construction of the seal pool will be completed in late summer at the earliest.

Still only a pup, the Saimaa ringed seal was rescued in July last year and brought to Helsinki Zoo’s Wildlife Hospital in a poor condition. The seal would have died unless it could be appropriately settled at a zoo. The authorities – the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of Southwest Finland – ruled in August that the seal could not be returned to its natural habitat in the Lake Saimaa region because of the risk of disease posed by it to the seal population. The Saimaa ringed seal is an endangered species.

The authorities granted Helsinki Zoo a special permit to keep this Saimaa ringed seal individual on a permanent basis. The arguments for the special permit were (1) promotion of the conservation of the Saimaa ringed seal, education of Helsinki Zoo visitors and research into the species, and (2) a special pool to be built for the Saimaa ringed seal individual.

The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment emphasises that injured Saimaa ringed seals must primarily be treated in the Saimaa region in the future. Saimaa is estimated to be home to 400 highly endangered Saimaa ringed seals.

Until the construction of the new seal pool is completed, the well-being of the Saimaa ringed seal at Helsinki Zoo is ensured. The seal was moved from the Wildlife Hospital to a newly completed otter pool. The seal now has a 17-cubic-metre pool to swim in and a rock to lie on. Bigger than the hospital’s outdoor pool, the otter pool has better water quality and so improves the seal’s health. The temporary use of the otter pool to house the seal has been permitted by a veterinarian.

“This Saimaa ringed real is a very curious and fast-learning individual. When released into the new pool, it enjoyed being able to swim and dive properly, and it studied every detail built in the pool for it,” says Laura Pulli, who has taken care of the seal since July.

The new resident of Helsinki Zoo has been named Piitsniemen Topias (Topias of Piitsniemi). The name was given to the seal jointly by its discoverer and the zoo. In order that Topias can settle well in its new environment, viewing places have been fenced. This now allows zoo visitors to be acquainted with Topias.