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Rare Saimaa seals back on live stream, now with sound

The massively popular annual webcam featuring endangered seals has begun drawing viewers back into the placid scenery of eastern Finland's lake district.

Saimaannorppa.
The webcam shows rocks favoured by the rare seals as napping spots. Image: Jouni Koskela

WWF Finland has launched its popular webcam featuring Saimaa ringed seals for a sixth year running. Called "Norppalive" in Finnish, the live streams shows rocks favoured by the rare seals as places to rest and scrape off their winter fur.

This year's live stream kicked off on Wednesday morning, featuring sound for the first time. Over the past five years, Norppalive has attracted some 10 million views.

Juha Taskinen, a nature photographer, documentary filmmaker, author and fisher who has been involved with Norppalive from the beginning, says that Norppalive's popularity is a good sign for the survival of the endangered species. The WWF estimates that there are around 430 of the seals, which live only in Finland's largest lake system, Saimaa.

"The popularity of Norppalive indicates that Finns want to protect the ringed seal. Sometimes I get emotional when watching Norppalive myself; it feels like sitting on a rock next to them without disturbing them," Taskinen told Yle on Wednesday.

The live webcast shows how the seals dry their fur and scrape off their winter fur. Even before the start of the broadcast, the camera recorded Finland's most famous seal, dubbed Pullervo, which translates roughly as "roly-poly".

This year's stream may include sounds of boat motors

This year, a microphone has also been connected to the camera, although the seals are rather quiet types.

"The microphone mainly records sounds of nature, such as water lapping and the wind humming. Boaters also travel around the area, so the transmission may also include motor sounds. This highlights the fact that people and seals share the same waters," explained WWF Digital Innovation Manager Justus Hyvärinen, who is responsible for the installation of the NGO's live webcams. Other live feeds show the activities of ospreys, Arctic foxes, adders and other species.

The WWF, the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and other NGOs have been pushing for stricter rules on the use of fishing nets near seal habitats, which cause drowning deaths each year.

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