Saimaa ringed seal © WWF

Norppalive – Frequently Asked Questions

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Why is WWF streaming a live video of a Saimaa ringed seal?

The goal of this project is to spread awareness of the life and threats of the Saimaa ringed seal. Another goal is to increase social approval of protecting the seals and to encourage people to take part in protective action. We wish to make the seals more familiar to people so that they might be more willing to voluntarily give up net fishing on Lake Saimaa. Fishing nets are one of the major threats to the seals. The streaming project also promotes education, research and public knowledge.

How can I take part in Norppalive?

You can take part in Norppalive by watching, sharing, or liking on social media – or simply by enjoying it. If you wish to share Norppalive on social media, use the hashtag #Norppalive. Let's work together to spread the word about the beautiful animal that is the Saimaa ringed seal!

Why should people know more about these seals?

We believe that awareness of the Saimaa ringed seal, its lifestyle, its uniqueness and the reasons why it is endangered helps people understand why this animal needs to be protected. We also believe that it is important to offer people the opportunity to see and experience the Saimaa ringed seal for themselves. This might result in more favourable attitudes towards this critically endangered species.

What did Norppalive accomplish in 2016?

Norppalive gained more than two million views. It became a social media phenomenon that brought Finnish people together. Norppalive raised a common spirit among citizens to keep the species alive. A large number of people signed a commitment to stop net fishing, one of the major threats to the seals, on Lake Saimaa (188% increase in commitments).

How will WWF guarantee that the seal can be seen on the video?

We cannot guarantee that a seal can be seen on the video. However, the camera has been placed in a location where the seals have often been spotted. Patience usually pays off.

Is Norppalive a fund-raising campaign?

The video permit granted by the authorities is limited to the production of materials promoting research, education and awareness or raising funds for the protection of the Saimaa ringed seal. In May 2016, WWF gained about 140% more supporters than usual, even though fund-raising is not one of the goals of the project. The funds will be used for the protection of the Saimaa ringed seal.

Does the camera disturb the seals?

The seals are not disturbed by cameras. This was clearly seen in 2016. The fact was also verified by years of research at the University of Eastern Finland, utilising camera traps that are very similar to the one streaming the live video. The installation and maintenance of the cameras is also carried out without disturbing the seals. The devices and equipment used for the live cam are installed so that they will not attract outsiders to the vicinity of the seals' resting areas. The camera angle is placed so that the location cannot be identified. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland help select the best location. The researchers' camera trap is situated in the same location. The landowner has also given permission to use the camera.

Why is the live video streamed right now?

In the spring, Saimaa ringed seals rise to the banks of the lake to moult. This is the perfect opportunity to film the seals that otherwise spend the majority of their time in the water. After moulting, the seals can rarely be seen on land.

Can I publish the live video on my own website?

Unforunately not. The live stream can’t be published on other sites or on social media without the permission of WWF-Finland.

What is the exact location of the camera?

To avoid disturbing the seals, we cannot disclose the location of the camera.

What happens if the location of the camera is revealed?

If the location of the Norppalive camera becomes public information, WWF may have to end the stream ahead of schedule. This will be considered based on the situation at hand.

Why can't I view the stream on my device?

The stream does not work on some Windows phones. It is also possible that the page is experiencing heavy traffic.

Has WWF taken the privacy protection of people into account?

Yes. The camera is disguised so that it will not disturb the seals but will be apparent to any people nearby. There is also a notice on the live cam next to the camera.

How many Saimaa ringed seals are there?

According to an assessment by an expert from Metsähallitus (Parks and Wildlife Finland), the size of the Saimaa ringed seal population at the moment is approximately 360 seals. The population refers to the number of wintered seals before the pups are born in February and March. The annual assessment conducted by Metsähallitus is the only comprehensive and scientific assessment based on terrain inventory.

What are the major threats to the Saimaa ringed seal?

In the 20thcentury, the seals were nearly hunted to extinction. Today climate change poses a threat to the species. They need snow to build the lairs where they give birth. These lairs protect their offspring from the cold, predators, and human disturbance. But over the past several years, the snow cover in the region has not been deep enough to create those lairs.

The plight of the Lake Saimaa seals denotes a hallmark for what may happen in other parts of the Arctic, as the planet warms. The year 2016 was, for the third consecutive year, the hottest year on record.

Fishing nets are also a major threat to the seal. Pups, in particular, can become entangled in fishing nets and drown.

What is WWF doing to protect the seals?

We have been actively protecting the Saimaa ringed seal since 1979. We produce information, work in the field, influence decision-making, work with businesses and conduct environmental education. Active protection work has saved the Saimaa ringed seal population and enabled it to increase its numbers in Saimaa. However, the seals will need protection for a long time to come. Learn more about our work

Would it not be possible to move the Saimaa ringed seal further north to protect it from climate change?

Relocation was attempted in the 1980s for research purposes to a pond that was unconnected to Lake Saimaa. However, the attempt failed. The major reason for not even considering relocations to other water systems at the moment is that even the population in Saimaa is still too small. To make relocation to another water system even theoretically possible, the relocated population should consist of at least several dozens of seals due to genetic reasons, and such numbers of Saimaa ringed seals are not "up for grabs" anywhere. Instead, relocations within Saimaa may be possible in some cases, as the population is quite scattered in its farthest areas, making it difficult for those seals to find a partner. Such an experiment has been conducted successfully in the past.

Can artificial nests be made for Saimaa ringed seals?

The development of artificial nests is already underway. In 2014, we organised a nest design contest. The ideas are now being tested and developed even further. This development process requires persistent work and funding for the researchers. We are continuously supporting the seal research of the University of Eastern Finland. At the same time, the threat posed by warmer winters is increasing and we must do everything in our power to protect the seal on other fronts. This work is an ongoing effort. One particularly important factor is the reduction of mortality rates caused by fishing equipment.

How large are the seals?

An adult Saimaa ringed seal is about 130–145 cm long and weighs about 50–90 kg.

How long do the seals live?

The Saimaa ringed seal may live as long as 30 years.

What do the seals eat?

The Saimaa ringed seal mostly eats small fish living in shoals, such as vendace.

How fast can the seals swim?

On average, seals swim about 1–2 metres per second, which is quite close to the maximum speed of humans over short distances. The maximum swimming speed of a human can be a little over 2 m/s. The difference is that a seal can swim for a considerably longer time – nearly around the clock, if necessary. 

How do the seals sleep?

In the spring, the seals spend long periods of time napping on dry land, but they are also able to sleep while swimming.

How long can the seals stay underwater?

The seals spend up to 80% of their time underwater. It only comes to the surface to check its surroundings or when rising to the banks to rest. The excellent diving capacity of the seals is enabled by the large oxygen reserves in their blood and muscles and the economical and efficient use of these reserves. The seals have high haemoglobin levels; more than 250g/l. The longest diving times (more than 20 minutes) have been measured from sleeping seals.

How do the seals navigate?

In murky waters, the seals rely on their vision and whiskers that have adapted to the dark.

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