A rare golden seal pup may have to be rescued and re-homed by biologists unless its colony accepts its rare look.
The golden pup was born less than a month ago on the island of Tyuleny in the Sea of Okhotsk, Russia, where a large colony of seals resides. The seal was spotted by marine mammal biologist Vladimir Burkanov during a field trip to the island.
The golden seal pup stands out against its dark-furred peers because it is partially albino, which means it has golden fur, blue eyes, and pink flippers.
Experts say the chances of such a partial albino birth are one in 100,000, and while it is incredibly amazing, the golden pup has been dubbed the ‘ugly one’ because it looks so different from the rest of the colony.
A few years ago, another golden seal called Nafanya was rejected by its companions because it looked so different; now biologists fear the same could happen to the new seal pup.
Burkanov says in the Siberian Times that the golden seal has not become a total outcast yet, but that there are signs of it being slightly rejected.
“This pup looks well-fed and was very active, so its mother clearly gave it plenty of milk,” Burkanov said. “Other seals don’t pay too much attention to it in a somewhat worrying manner, so something is not quite right with it. But it is not getting chased or bitten.”
The seal is believed to have poor eyesight, and based on his knowledge and experience of years of observing fur seals, Burkanov said its chances of growing old and breeding are slim-to-none.
Experts will now monitor the golden seal to make sure they can rescue it if it is continuously rejected. If that’s the case, the seal will likely be taken to a Russian dolphinarium like Nafanya, who was adopted to Sochi in the south of Russia.
There is some hope for the young pup, however, as Burkanov shared an image on Instagram of a partially-albino adult seal at the Severo-Zapadnoe rookery on Bering Island, he wrote that the seal ‘did not participate in reproduction this season and was seen on the bachelor section of the rookery only.’
“Perhaps, this is the first documented case of the survival of a northern fur seal of an abnormal color to adulthood,” Burkanov added.
Hopefully, the ‘ugly’ seal will be welcomed by its colony; its unique looks don’t make it any less of a seal!