Another summer expedition was held to study the state of the Baikal seal population in the period from July 27 to August 17. Field work was traditionally carried out on the Ushkany Islands, which are a place of accumulation of seals in the summer. The expedition was organized by the A.N. Severtsov Institute for Ecology and Evolution of RAS (IEE RAS). It was attended by leading specialists of the IEE RAS and students of the Faculty of Biology of the Moscow State University as part of an educational practice, as well as employees of the Baikal branch of the VNIRO Federal State Budgetary Institution and the Federal State Budgetary Institution «Zapovednoe Podlemorye».
Within the framework of the 2021 summer expedition, research work was carried out in three directions.
Firstly, visual observations of the seal deposit on the island of Tonky were conducted, which included an assessment of the number of the seal population, the number of sick and non-molting animals. These works are a continuation of the work started within the framework of the summer expedition in 2020.
Secondly, the seals were recorded using a quadrocopter on three of the four islands of the Ushkany archipelago. Accounting on the Tonky island was carried out after visual accounting, which will help to take into account animals that were under water and were inaccessible for visual observation. The surveys conducted on the Long and Round islands will allow us to more accurately estimate the total number of Baikal seals on the Ushkany Islands.
Thirdly, during the expedition, animals were captured to install satellite transmitters and take biological samples for further research. Trapping is carried out by specialized specialists from the Baikal branch of the VNIRO Federal State Budgetary Institution. A total of 26 seals were captured, 17 of which were equipped with satellite transmitters to track the movement of the animal (approx. no animal was harmed! :). Samples of hair, vibrissae and blood were taken from all the animals for further laboratory tests.
This year, several Russian companies paid attention to the scientific research of the Baikal seal, which provided financial support to the project to study the Baikal seal population and directly transferred funds to the IEE RAS. With the assistance of Lake Baikal Foundation, 3 million rubles were raised in the IEE RAS. The study of the Baikal seal population is carried out within the framework of the integrated Baikal Seal Research Program approved by the IEE RAS for the period up to 2025 with the support of Lake Baikal Foundation. We closely monitor the progress of research and are always happy to share news with you!