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Saimaa ringed seal population on the increase

The population of the critically endangered Saimaa ringed seal has grown by up to 20 animals, according to the state's forest-management company Metsähallitus. Artificial snow banks and fishing restrictions are believed to have had a positive impact.

Saimannorpan kuutti ja emo
A pup and its mum. Image: Mervi Kunnasranta

Saimaa ringed seal populations are slowly growing, estimates state-owned forest-management enterprise Metsähallitus.

The organisation says that the populace of the unique and endangered creature for the coming winter will be at 370-380 seals, some 10-20 more than last year. A total of 83 seal pups were born, making this the second year in a row that the figure has risen above 80 seals.

Last winter was a challenge for the species due to a lack of snow, according to Metsähallitus. Artificial measures such as 280 constructed snow banks for nesting and fishing restrictions in Lake Saimaa seem to have taken hold.

Only 13 seal pups were born in natural circumstances in snow or on ice, while 70 births have been reported in the man-made nests.

The Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) may be the most endangered seal species in the world, having adapted from its saltwater ancestors some 10,000 years ago. They are found only in the extensive Saimaa lake system of eastern Finland.

The threats the species faces include net fishing, which can strangle young pups, and the drastic environmental impacts of climate change, which devastates their living and breeding environments.

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