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The moon over Baikal glittered in different way, like you are looking at sable fur

'
Ian Frazier, 2013

Where is my mother? Russia's lost baby seals are rescued after losing out on maternal love

By Kate Baklitskaya
03 May 2013

Lost and alone on the Pacific coast, the seals would die without the help of a unique seal sanctuary.

We moved from a flat in Vladivostok to a private house so that there is space for the rehabilitation centre. We had to build everything from scratch. We couldn't have done it without help - we just don't have so much money'. Picture: Lora Beloivan and Pavel Chiopenko

Last year, for example, four lost and confused baby seals, missing their mothers, were saved and nurtured by Lora Beloivan and her husband Pavel Chiopenko. All of them were fed and after five months rehabilitation were released back into the ocean.

'They were all well, and nicely fattened, and were almost crawling back into the sea', said Lora. It is eight years since the couple brought home their first seal, and since then they have cared for 13 in Vladivostok and Primoriye region in the far east of Russia. 

'I was walking along the shore with my dog when I found a baby seal', explains Lora about the first seal she found. 

'The animal was dying and the birds were already picking it. I decided to try and save it and took the seal home. My husband is a vet but he had never treated a seal before and had only theoretical knowledge. It also turned out that there was not a single place we could take a seal in our region.

'We started searching for the information on internet but there wasn't much in Russian."

'Pavel made a couple of shots and the seal eventually got better. Not very fast, though.

Seals rehab Vladivostok

Seal named Glebovna after the man that rescued it is having a bath. Picture: Lora Beloivan and Pavel Chiopenko

'We soon realised that we need to get some knowledge and special training if we want to help seals in future.'

They soon learned the things you can do saving seals and what you must not do.

'For example you should never give milk to a seal. But that was about the only information that we found on the internet actually. Luckily we didn't do that,  though it's one of the typical mistakes. 

'We used to feed the seal with ground fish and he soon started gaining weight.'

Searching for seal specialists, Lora learned about the Irish Seal Sanctuary where they went as volunteers for a month and a half working with the animals and learning how to properly take care of them. 

After coming back, word spread about Lora and Pavel and now more people knew where to bring seals if they find a weak or sickly creature. 

Seals rehab Vladivostok

'Glebovna' seal pictured when she was found. Her weight was only 6kg, when the normal weight should have been about 15kg. Picture: Lora Beloivan and Pavel Chiopenko

Back in 2007, Lora registered the rehabilitation centre as an official organisation, though still there was no outside financial support.

'All the expenses of the rehabilitation centre are paid from our own pocket and the money people donate to us. We moved from a flat in Vladivostok to a private house in Tavrichanka village in Primorsk region, so we would have enough space for the rehabilitation centre. We had to build everything from scratch. We couldn't have done it without help. We just don't have so much money'.

Every baby seal needs at least $10-$12 for food a day. With four seals being cared for, this amounts to almost $300 a week for food alone - not including medications.

'Our friends helped us a lot, as did some volunteers. Right now we have an old friend visiting us from Kamchatka, he came specially to volunteer in our rehab centre for a couple of weeks. All three seals that we have now were brought by volunteers as well'.

Lora's seal centre has built up a good relationship with the local branch of the Emergencies Ministry where people tend to call after finding a stranded seal.

Officials redirect the call to Lora and Pavel who set about rescuing the seal. Two years ago, a worker in Preobrajenie village saw a seal while rowing a boat. 

The creature was so weak and tired that it tried to climb into the boat by the oar. But it failed and fell back into the water. The next day another worker, Valery Glebov, who had heard about the seal, sent students, who were doing an internship athis plant, to go to the shore and see if the seal appeared.

This is how Glebovna - named after the worker - was found. Thin and exhausted, the seal was only three or four weeks old and weight 6kg. She was far too thin for her age, when normal weight should be about 15kg.

'She gained weight and was 35 kg when we let her go after five months,' said Lora. 'We set her free at the same place that we had found her. We reached the place when it was five minutes before midnight but factory workers were there waiting for us.

'Everyone wanted to say goodbye to Glebovna and watch her swim away. It was very touching.'

Seals rehab Vladivostok


Seals rehab Vladivostok


Seals rehab Vladivostok

Lora's seal centre has built up a good relationship with the local branch of the Emergencies Ministry where people tend to call after finding a stranded seal. Officials redirect the call to Lora and Pavel who set about rescuing the seal. Picture: Lora Beloivan and Pavel Chiopenko

Numbers of seals being rescued are rising but Lora is pleased it is not poaching that causes the distress to these creatures.

'It's usually the case when the baby lost its mother at a very early stage and is not able to survive alone yet,' said Lora. 

'Last year four baby seals were set free after receiving proper help and treatment over five months with the rehabilitation team'.

Comments (1)

I would like to.donate to the center can you post their address for us.
Marsha, Usa
29/05/2013 14:17
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