The Baikal Seal Year

The Baikal Seal Year

2018 – 2020

In 2019 Lake Baikal Foundation holds a unique series of activities aimed at studying the Baikal seal and sustaining the welfare of the population. «The Baikal Seal Year» project is intended to draw the attention of the public, government and business to the unique endemic species; to set the stage for systematic studying and monitoring of the only Baikal’s mammal.

The Foundation has already begun the implementation of the program in cooperation with the specialists on the seal and worked out educational materials. In 2018 the  project was supported by the Presidential Grants Foundation, having won the grant contest in category «Environment and Animals Protection». The grant amounted to 4 658 460 rubles. The other part of the project’s budget will be covered with co-financing from Lake Baikal Foundation.

Goal:

  • to shape responsible and caring attitude to the Baikal seal on the part of scientific community, environmental organizations, local population of the Baikal region and people all over Russia.

Targets:

  • to obtain missing scientific data about current state of the Baikal seal population with non-invasive and minimally invasive, humane methods (satellite tagging and biological samples collection);
  • to conduct offline and online lessons dedicated to the Baikal seal with invited experts for schoolchildren, students and adults of the Irkutsk region, the Republic of Buryatia and other regions of Russia;
  • to launch a special project which includes the results of the Baikal seal scientific research and an educational part, in regional and national media;
  • to work out strategies to improve the state of the endemic population in cooperation with the partners on the scientific program based on the data obtained by them;
  • to work out a plan on further environmental education program on a basis of feedback from the partnering organizations of the program.

What has been done:

  • during May-June 2019 the educational institutions of Irkutsk and the Republic of Buryatia held the Baikal Seal’s lessons (offline lessons). 2459 children took part in these lessons. Present and future keepers of the Baikal flora and fauna learnt about caring attitude to the Baikal seal and found out many important facts about the endemic species. The eco-lesson is aimed at preventing illegal hunting and poaching, mitigation of the human-seal conflict, increasing the level of general eco-culture, shaping conscious attitude to the Baikal’s fauna and the reasons for its degradation;
  • 5-12 July, 2019 the expedition on satelite tagging of 15 Baikal seals was held on the Ushkany Islands (part of the special natural protected area «Zapovednoye Podlemorye»). Satellite tagging of such scale was held for the first time on the Baikal. Among the participants were scientists from A.N. Severtsov Institute for Ecology and Evolution of RAS, employees of the Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography and Association of natural protected areas «Zapovednoe Podlemorye». Beside that, the scientists managed to collect 174 samples of biomaterial from seals for further analysis;
  • 1 October, 2019 we launched an online lesson about the Baikal seal on the educational platform Stepik jointly with the experts from A.N. Severtsov Institute for Ecology and Evolution of RAS targeting wide audience, focused on the middle and high school students. 47 000 schoolchildren, vocational and college students, their parents and teachers in more than 20 regions of Russia participated in the Baikal seal online course;
  • we received detailed feedback from the partners and teachers in form of questionnaires and comments on the educational platform. Teachers from different regions of Russia admit the importance of such lessons despite the fact that many of them live far from lake Baikal – the Baikal seal’s habitat. They underline the significant role of ecolessons in conservation of biodiversity and education for children, adolescents and adults. The feedback from offline and online lessons is recapped into the eco-educational project which is being implemented continuously at regional scales;
  • 29 November 2019 we organised a round table in A.N. Severtsov Institute for Ecology and Evolution of RAS dedicated to the project’s development and scientific plans for 2020. The experts from the Institute presented first results of satellite tracking of the seals who had spread widely over the lake for the past 5 months; the virological tests results and other important data obtained for the first time in history of the Baikal seal’s observations. The data is presented in the scientific report. Other specialists on marine mammals also took part in the event: representatives from the Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography, the Irkutsk State Agrarian University named after A.A. Ezhevsky, the Irkutsk Sealarium, the Baikal Museum, as well as the representative from the business company EN+ as a potential partner for the project;
  • all data obtained during the program implementation is presented in a special media-project with regional and national partners: for the first time it was told about what threats the endemic population is facing and what the man has to do with this;
  • we addressed official letters to the pertinent governmental bodies (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, pertinent committee of the Russian Parliament, Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage, Federal Water Resources Agency, Federal Fishery Agency, the Baikal Nature Interregional Prosecutor’s Office, pertinent executive bodies in the Irkutsk region and in the Republic of Buryatia) proposing measures for comprehensive development and studying of the Baikal seal’s population at the state level;
  • the educational block of the project has broadened its scope: we edit the eco-lesson with English subtitles for English-speaking audience all around the world.

Sustainability of the Project:

  • Lake Baikal Foundation jointly with the expert community advocates the continuation of the comprehensive project on studying and preservation of the Baikal seal. A range of events lies ahead in 2020: finish the migration routes tracking; carry out toxicological, hormonal, serological tests to get more precise picture of the population’s health;
  • we will obtain scientific data about intrapopulation processes and work out strategies on conservation and welfare of the endemic species considering the increasing level of anthropogenic influence on its habitat;
  • the activities implemented in the framework of «The Baikal Seal Year» in 2019 laid the foundation for working out and implementating comprehensive scientific-educational program on studying and preservation of the Baikal seal, which will allow to count and estimate in details the population’s health to make the preservation measures scientifically well-grounded.

The project is implemented with the support of  Presidential Grants Foundation

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Biodiversity Conservation