In search of Saimaa Ringed Seal
Last weekend, on Saturday 25th of May 2019, I drove to estern Finland, just one species in my mind; the Saimaa Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) – as I had not ever seen it. It is a subspecies of Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida). They are among the most endangered seals in the world, having a total population of only about 390 individuals and the only existing population of these seals is found in Lake Saimaa, Finland (hence the name).
They have lived in complete isolation from other ringed seal species for around 9,500 years and have diverged into a morphologically and ecologically different subspecies of Ringed Seal. The population is descended from Ringed Seals that were separated from the rest when the land rose after the last ice age. This seal, along with the Ladoga Ringed Seal and the Baikal Seal, is one of the few living freshwater seals. The taxonomy of Ringed Seal may change in future, i.e. both subspecies, Saimaa Ringed Seal and Ladoga Ringed Seal, may get a species status.
SaimaaHoliday Oravi is arranging seal safaris to Linnansaari National Park where lives about 60 Saimaa Ringed Seal and I had booked seats for myself and my family from their boat. The weather forecast was not the best – heavy rain was approaching from west. Our guide / motor boat operator drove right away to the best hotspot. And he really knew where the seals are – we saw total of 5 Saimaa Ringed Seals. I can really recommend SaimaaHoliday Oravi! After watching and photographing seals, we had a break on small island and had coffee / tea plus excellent tosca pie! Perfect seal trip!
While driving from home to Oravi and back we saw several other mammals; 6 European Hares (Lepus europaeus), 1 Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus), 3 Elks (Alces alces) and 1 White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Also some roadkills; 1 Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus), 1 European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) and 1 Raccoon Dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides ussuriensis). And lot’s of molehills of European mole (Talpa europaea) in small park near Olavinlinna castle.