Swedish zoo fights to keep wild seal pups

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) has ruled that two seals found over Easter and taken in by the Kolmården animal park in south Sweden should either be returned to the wild or put down, but Kolmården has refused to comply.

Swedish zoo fights to keep wild seal pups

Kolmården wants to keep the pups, which carers have named Anders and Benjamin, but the law says that wild animals can only be taken in for a maximum of 48 hours. After that, they have to be released.

“They would never make it in the wild now, not a chance,” Mats Höggren, Kolmården’s chief zoologist, told news agency TT.

“We want an exemption from the law. We have started feeding them fish and would like to keep them here until late spring when they will weigh around 40 to 50 kilos. Then we would attach GPS trackers to them and place them in the St Anna archipelago,” said Höggren.

Local police handed the seal pups over to the Kolmården animal park after members of the public spotted them.

One of the pups, now named Anders, was found on a bike path in Oxelösund in south-east Sweden just before Easter. The second, named Benjamin, was discovered in central Norrköping, the nearest town to Kolmården, on Easter Monday.

“We know that we are breaking the law but we will not contribute to these pups’ death. Our own county administration has tried to take over responsibility for the case but the request was denied,” said Höggren.

The Environmental Protection Agency will make a decision about Kolmården’s exemption request by Monday at the latest. Meanwhile, the pups will stay at the park but if the request is rejected they will be removed.

“In that case we will have to find a solution as to who will do it and how,” said Ruona Bergman, wildlife coordinator at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Anders and Benjamin are currently living in separate boxes at Kolmården’s veterinary clinic. They are kept in isolation so that they do not get used to being around humans.

“What’s important now is that they eat and rest. Now that we have gotten involved with love and resources we want to complete our commitment,” said Höggren.

He is hopeful about the pups’ futures. “I am certain we will be granted an exemption,” he said.

The case has gotten a lot of attention and Höggren believes this will work in Kolmården’s – and the pups’ – favour.

“People are so emotional when it comes to animals. These seals are vulnerable and cute.”

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Sweden to introduce licenced hunt to cope with growing seal population

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may expand the right to hunt seals in the Baltic Sea due to an increasing population of the mammals.

Sweden to introduce licenced hunt to cope with growing seal population
Sweden is one of just a handful of countries that currently allows seal hunting, but the rule change would mean fewer restrictions on hunting. Photo: Janerik Henriksson / SCANPIX/TT

The growing number of seals along the coast of Sweden can cause problems for the fishing industry, because the seals tend to tear apart fishing equipment and eat caught fish.

The Swedish EPA has for several years allowed for so-called protective hunts of ringed seals, harbour seals and grey seals, which means that hunts can go ahead if the animal population is seen as a threat to humans or livestock.

But in many parts of Sweden, less than half the allocated quota is met, due to a low interest from hunters.

“It's a time-consuming and costly hunt, as for the most part it needs to be done from a boat,” said Nils Mårtenson who is the head of the EPA's game management unit. “In addition, the seals are supposed to be recovered and taken care of but according to EU regulations, no products from seals can be sold.”

The seal population poses a problem for the fishing industry across the country, with grey seals predominantly in Skåne and along the Baltic Sea coast, harbour seals along the West Coast and ringed seals further north.

Seals lack natural predators, and their living environment has improved over the past ten years due to a reduction in the level of environmental toxins finding their way into the water.

Now the government has asked the EPA to look into a licence hunt on grey seals. The difference between this and the protective hunt is that the latter is more strictly regulated, and may only take place within 200 metres of a place where fishing is carried out.

A final decision on the licence hunt will come into force from April and will be in effect until January 31st, 2021.


hunt (noun) — (en) jakt

to hunt — att jaga

seal — (en) säl

time-consuming — tidskrävande

costly — kostsam