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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Spain’s Alicante aims to limit hiking and ban outdoor sports in iconic nature spots

Environmental authorities in the Spanish region of Valencia want to limit hiking and ban rockclimbing and canyoning in popular retreats in Alicante, Valencia and Castellón provinces to preserve these natural habitats and their local species.

Hiking in Valencia might be banned.
Barranc de l'Infern in Alicante province. Photo: Diana TV/Flickr

The Valencian region’s Climate Emergency Department is planning to establish several Special Conservation Zones in popular natural spots in the eastern region, where climbing and canyoning will be prohibited and hiking will be limited.

If the new rule comes into force, it will affect a large portion of the province of Alicante, including popular retreats in nature such as the Barranc de l’Infern river and its hiking route, Puigcampana and Ponoig, one of the best-known climbing spots in the region.

So far, the project is just a proposal, but it has already angered mountain-sport lovers and businesses throughout the region. 

Canyoning and climbing are considered “incompatible” practices with the preservation of natural habitats, according to the first draft of the new decree.

As well as banning these two popular sports, the new rule proposes that hiking in groups of more than 30 people will have to undergo prior evaluation.

Hiking in Puigcampana, Valencia. Image: NH53 / Flickr

The objective of the Department of Climatic Emergency is to extend this new rule and the creation of the ZECs to all the natural spaces included in the Natura 2000 Network within the Valencian Community.

The regulations of the European Union on these sites imply that they must guarantee the preservation of species of fauna and flora. 

For example, in the Special Conservation Zone (known as a ZEC) de la Marina, the decree states that species such as otter, river crab and Cobitis paludica fish will be protected, while the mountains in the centre of Alicante, it’s Bonelli’s eagle, the trumpeter bullfinch and the eagle owl, which must be protected. 

However, according to sources of Las Provincias news site, the European legislation does not prohibit climbing, canyoning and hiking from being carried out within them.

The new proposal has taken many groups by surprise as they were not told of the new proposal beforehand, and are unaware of what the economic and social implications will be.

The President of the Federation of Sports in the Mountains and Climbing in the Community (Muntanya i Escalada de la Comunitat) Carlos Ferrís, pointed out that “the preservation of the environment does not have to be incompatible with these sports” and said that the limitations are not justified by any scientific report.

Hiking in Ponoig, Valencia. Image: Lisa Risager / Flickr

Pedro Carrasco, manager of CV Activa, an association that brings together companies who target active tourism agreed, when he told Las Provincias: “They would have to do a detailed study of each and every place to assess the conditions. It cannot be based on intuition alone”.

These rural tourism businesses do however agree that there can be some limitations on the practice of these sports, but that they shouldn’t be prohibited year round.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The most picturesque day trips in Spain’s Alicante province