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Main » Articles » ISSUE #4 » Ecology

Seals of Lake Baikal

translated by Nastya Shelyakina

This year I’ve had a chance to go on a business trip to Irkutsk. I was met and accommodated in a hotel and then was taken to see Lake Baikal. This sea-lake impressed me by its greatness, furious energy, but the most impressive thing was waiting for me in the museum. I got to know seals. Two fascinating creatures were swimming in the transparent aquarium. One of them turned its side, which made me shudder because its side looked as if it was cut by with an axe. The guide explained that they were marks, left by hunters. Then the story followed that engraved into my memory.      

Seals are supposed to be killed by a shot in the head. Only this way you can have a good prey. If the bullet gets into any other part, a seal is able to dive from ice into water even though it’s wounded to death. The seal of Lake Baikal is extremely careful unlike other allied species. So hunters have to shoot at seals fifty or even a hundred meters away. Even the most experienced hunters admit that one of three hits leads to injuries.

Another way to catch a seal is to use a net. As a result it dies in terrible convulsion choking under the water. The first president of the USSR is probably still completely unware  that he involuntarily made his contribution to seal hunting increase. His fashionable cap was made of  unusual seal fur at that time. Then this initiative of perestroika was continued and embodied in clothes for our Olympic team. After that there were orders from Russian rich men. According to the most conservative estimates this shady business brings more than 20 million dollars of annual income. Fur items made in Baikal have appeared not only in Russia but also in the Ukraine, China and even in Italy.

Seals have become very wild. Once during the filming in the ice it reacted to the click of a photo camera at 200 meter distance. Cousteau’s crew, which came to Baikal several years ago,  faced the same problem. Having experience of filming seals all around the world, the cameramen were amazed by extreme caution of this kind of seals.

The guide told me about the folder full of orders for seals for scientific aims. Earlier the scientists took 500 licences, this year they have already taken 800. To identify sex and age of animals and the number of pregnant seals, people kill them and this has been already carried for more than 40 years. To understand what is going on, I need to say that scientists get money for returned fells. I was stricken by the humanism of the science that looks more like business or slaughterhouse.

The guide finished his story with such words: "I don’t believe that it’s possible to kill seals with a clear conscience using licence today and to protect them tomorrow. I don’t believe… You should have moral right to protect nature properly.”

So the main idea he said  is that the 
treasures of Lake Baikal can be preserved only by people with clear conscience. It sounds grandiloquent but it’s only because of the fact that today is the time when it’s indecent to talk about real values.

How they saved its life

Category: Ecology | Added by: Chuda (17-Nov-2011) | Author: Ilya Pokazaniev
Views: 1776 | Comments: 4 | Tags: Seal, Baikal, Ilya Pokazaniev, Lake Baikal | Rating: 5.0/7
Total comments: 2
I' m sure you can't do anything about it Tatyana. But maybe there's one thing you CAN do...Don't buy those caps and hats!!!

I was reading and crying but I pulled myself together and read till the end. The trouble is that I don't know how I could help((((

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