Orphan baby seal rescued
An orphan baby seal is the latest addition to the Slakki petting zoo in Laugarás in South Iceland. The seal will be cared for by the zoo’s staff until November, when it is expected to be released back into the wild.
The baby seal was found by the local resident in Traustholtshólmi Island in the Þjórsá river delta. The Þjórsá glacial river is Iceland’s longest river at 230 kilometers (143 miles), and has its source in Hofsjökull glacier.
A search for the baby seal's mother was fruitless, she was nowhere to be found. A local speculated that a potential explanation of the separation of the two, is that the Landsvirkjun power company may have increased flow of water into the river, but the river’s water level had risen suddenly. The seals inhabit reefs by the river delta, and a sudden rise to the water level may be the reason mother and baby got separated.
When it became clear that the baby seal could not be reunited with its mother, it was decided to take it to the Slakki petting zoo in Laugarás.
“They tried to find the mother or other seals, but they had all gone down river and this poor thing was left behind,” says Helgi Sveinbjörnsson, staff member at Slakki. “We would never separate a seal from its mother to take it to the zoo, that would be out of the question. But when it is a question of rescuing an animal, then it is of course a good thing.”
Helgi says that it is very demanding to take care of orphaned animals. The main objective is that the animal survives and thrives after it has been released back into the wild. The zoo’s staff is determined to do their best. “We have a fenced pond and a good arrangement for it, and we have been trying to feed it milk and cold liver oil this evening,” says Helgi.
Kidnapped in the middle of the night
The Slakki zoo has twice before adopted orphaned baby seals. The first time it turned out very well and the animal was successfully released back into the wild when it was ready. The second time, the baby seal was kidnapped in the middle of the night.
“The strange thing is that we never received any complaints, not from environmental activists or anyone. Still this happened. We never heard more about it,” says Helgi. “Most likely it was released back into the wild even though the animal wasn’t ready for it.”
Helgi says that the zoo’s staff had consulted with specialist about how to take care of the baby seals and this time around they would also seek advice from qualified professionals.
“Thirteen years ago, when we had the first baby seal, we were told to feed it and let it grow until November. They are not ready to be set free until then, but the plan is to release this one around that time,” says Helgi.
Feeding time. Staff at Slakki petting zoo feed the baby seal with milk and cod liver oil. Ljósmynd/Dýragarðurinn Slakki
It is not yet clear which gender the seal is, but it has been decided to name it either Ásgeir (male) or Dýrleif (female) after the last permanent inhabitants in Traustholtshólmi where it was found.