Little Inger: return to the Gulf of Finland


On 21 May, the Baltic ringed seal named Little Inger returned to the Gulf of Finland. The specialists of the Marine Mammals Rehabilitation Centre will be able to watch how Inger is adapting itself to the natural habitat via a satellite transmitter on its back.


The story of Inger rescue is longer than usual. On 21 April 2015, the animal was delivered to the Centre in a very bad state from the village of Kandikülä (Lomonosovskiy District, the Leningrad Region). The seal had a complicated fracture of the lower jaw and an extensive phlegmon (inflammation of soft tissues on its snout). Moreover, its right eye was injured. After the ablation of necrosed tissues the seal got a chance to survive, however, another problem arose: as there was not enough skin to cover its eye, inflammation of the unprotected part of the eye persisted. It would have been risky to release Inger into its natural habitat in such a medical condition.

Then the Centre specialists Vyacheslav Alexeyev and Elena Andriyevskaya decided to leave the complicated patient in the Centre for another year. Rehabilitation of Inger was a unique experience for the zoologists. Inger’s general state of health was improving gradually: its eye healed up; its jaw bones got fused together in the right position after two complex surgeries; the seal learnt to eat fish on its own, improved in strength and started putting on weight little-by-little.

For another thing, Little Inger and the Centre staff were to prepare for overwintering together. When cold weather came, an ice sheet formed on the open pond where Inger lived in an hour’s time. In natural habitats, ice covers the surface of water bodies gradually, and ringed seals have time to fit in: they find an opening or crack in the ice sheet or hack way through thin ice with their heads. However, it was the first winter in Inger’s life, and the animal had no skills for seasonal survival, therefore Vyacheslav and Elena had to keep vigil over the ice hole to make sure that the animal can come out and breathe at any time.

In March 2016, when new patients began to arrive in the Centre, Inger already had all skills as required for living on its own. The animal only had to live through seasonal shedding before it could be released into the Gulf: to extend the lifetime of the satellite transmitter to 6-9 months, it should be fixed to the animal’s hair at the neck after the shedding.

The transmitter weight is 180 grams. It was custom-made for Inger by a Russian manufacturer. By means of the device, the zoologists receive online data on the animal motion activity and coordinates of position with 100m accuracy. They can not only track the movements of the animal, but also come promptly to its rescue, if necessary. The information on Inger’s whereabouts is already available: it is in the central part of the Gulf – the optimal seal habitat.

The transmitter price is roughly 70,000 Roubles, and taking into account the cost of data transfer via the satellite traffic, Inger “tracking” amounts to nearly 200,000 Roubles.

The money for Inger rehabilitation at the Centre and for purchase, installation and maintenance of the satellite transmitter - over 300,000 Roubles, were donated by concerned Petersburg citizens last year. Taking the opportunity, the specialists of the Centre and SUE "Vodokanal of St. Petersburg" would like to express once again there gratitude to all those who made a contribution to the rescue of the animal.

It should be reminded that, currently, there are two hundred Baltic ringed seals at most in the Gulf of Finland, therefore the fate of each animal in this rare species is of great importance. It is preservation of the population of this species that the Baltic Ringed Seal Friends founders are focused on in the first place.

More information about the Centre patients can be found on the Baltic Ringed Seal Friends website: Go to the section “How you can help us” to learn how each of you can participate in the rescue of marine mammals in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region.


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