Icelandic police took on an unusual project last Friday when they found a seal pup behaving strangely in Njarðvík harbour, Vísir reports. The seal was delivered to Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo, where upon examination by experts it was found to be malnourished and suffering from an eye infection. Its caretakers plan to release it back into the wild when it has regained its health.
Likely far from home
The pup has been identified as a ringed seal (pusa hispida), the smallest and most common seal found in the Arctic. “Ringed seals are pretty common guests in Iceland and we’ve dealt with them before in the zoo,” says Þorkell Heiðarsson, department head at the institution. “The ringed seal is a polar species that follows the ice edge around the Arctic, including north of Iceland.”
“It’s therefore clear that this pup is far south of its natural habitat,” Þorkell explains. “On the other hand, it’s well known that young ringed seals go wandering and are found along Iceland’s coast, usually in the north.” The pup in question appears to be less than a year old, and has lost more than 10kg (22lbs) since it was weaned. Þorkell says zoo staff are doing their best to fatten him up and hope it will be possible to release him into the wild once he is healthy.
Another pup found in Ireland
Þorkell notes that a ringed seal pup was rescued on the west coast of Ireland last week near Shannon. “It’s the first ringed seal to be found there in over 100 years. In times when sea ice is rapidly declining and along with it the habitat of Arctic animals, it’s not unlikely that competition for the limited resource of ice intensifies and more animals will wander. Whether this visitor is a consequence of this is entirely uncertain, as the species is, as previously stated, a fairly frequent visitor here.”