The eyes tell the story. The fur seal pup’s blue orbs look startled and confused. Copper fur covers the body surrounding a winsome face. His flippers are pink. Nothing but the shape of this pup resembles the chocolate brown of his relatives.
Photographer Anatoly Strakhov stumbled across the pup on Tyulenly Island in Russia. Though most reports say the pup’s mother had rejected him, Dudley Wigdahl, Curator at the Aquarium of the Pacific, estimates he is three or four months old. Whether he’s been feeding from his own mother or sneaking milk from others, he has suckled enough to survive and looks healthy in the photographs.
With his albino-like characteristics, the pup faces some struggles in the wild. One of those is poor eyesight, which would hamper him from hunting or eluding predators. On the other hand, the little tyke made it this long, so it seems unlikely he was shunned by his colony as reports claim.
Strakhov was worried about the apparently abandoned pup. He does some work with a Russian dolphinarium, and that’s where the seal pup now has a new home. He will undoubtedly win the hearts of staff and visitors.
I am as taken as any animal lover by the story of this sweet seal pup. What troubles me is the assumption the pup was rejected by his mother and the colony. Young of any species who are truly rejected generally weaken and die well before the age of this one. Their mothers instinctively know when a newborn has life-threatening abnormalities. The mothers don’t waste energy on offspring unlikely to survive.
Furthermore, fur seals don’t automatically reject a pup of a different color. The photograph from Wikimedia Commons shows a similar pup snuggling with dark-brown colony mates.
So it’s possible this little guy was catching a peaceful nap when the photographer stumbled across him and that the presence of human onlookers kept him from rejoining the colony. The seal pup will likely thrive in the care of the dolphinarium, but he may not have needed rescuing. What do you think?
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Photo from Wikimedia Commons
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