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Weak ice hampers spring count of endangered Saimaa ringed seal

Sixty-three endangered Saimaa ringed seal pups were found during the early spring count carried out by forestry workers and volunteers.

Saimaannorpan poikanen, kuutti, huhtikuussa 2019.
Sixty-three endangered Saimaa ringed seal pups were found during this year's early spring count. Image: Ismo Marttinen

Sixty-two of 63 Saimaa ringed seal pups were found alive during the annual early spring count carried out by Parks & Wildlife Finland, part of the state forest agency Metsähallitus.

The count was carried out under difficult conditions and the actual number of pups born will be verified during the next count in May.

"The ice was covered by a layer of uneven snow, but there was enough snow this year for seals to nest naturally," said conservation biologist Jouni Koskela, who works for Metsähallitus.

Group effort

According to Koskela, about 100 people volunteered to help with the search for snow dens where seals burrow birthing dens.

"Due to poor ice and variable weather conditions, nesting checks had to be done in a relatively short period of time, and not all nests and pups were found," Koskela noted.

The Saimaa ringed seal is unique to Finland's Saimaa lake system in southeast Finland. It is one of the most endangered seal species in the world.

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