Baikal seals learn painting and celebrate their birthday

Baikal seals learn painting and celebrate their birthday

A large salmon cake decorated with smelt has been presented to the Aquarium’s Baikal seals. Last week Businka and Tuchka turned four; Alf, who is older than the female seals, turned eight.When the freshwater seals were small, their trainers decided to celebrate their birthdays on one day and thus started a new tradition at the Primorsky Aquarium. Baikal seals learn throughout their life, and the number of their achievements increases with each passing year.

“Tuchka made great progress during the past year – she learned to paint, and Alf is still being given art lessons,” said seal trainer Daria Drobnoskok. “Painting training is a staged process: at first, Tuchka learned to hold a paintbrush in her mouth, then she was taught to move it across paper, and after that we introduced paints. The biggest challenge was to accustom the animals to an easel – the seals are very shy creatures, and for some time the easel seemed rather suspicious to them.”

Of the three seals, Tuchka is the most diligent: it took her only three weeks to master painting. Businka is skillful in other activities – she is not fond of working with objects such as rings, balls, or paintbrushes but enjoys learning various behaviors in the water. Not long ago Businka was taught to dive with her head down, keeping her body and flippers strictly vertical.

“All three seals have completely different characters,” said Daria Prokhorenko, who has been working with the animals since their early days at the Aquarium. “Tuchka is most well-disposed to people, she likes any interaction with them, and you do not even have to invent a special game – she will invent it herself. Alf, by contrast, becomes more reserved as he gets older, and we try to respect his privacy. At the very beginning Businka was the first who came out of the water to approach the trainers, and she still remains the liveliest of the seals at the Aquarium but does some behaviors only when she is in the mood for it.”

The common trait of our Baikal seals is their sociability – they are always glad to see the Aquarium guests and especially love children: the seals happily play with them and view the toys small visitors show to the animals through the glass. This love is mutual: there are always a lot of people near the large enclosure of the endemics to Lake Baikal. On Mondays when the scientific and educational center is closed to the public, the seals feel bored and their trainers have to amuse them. For the next few weeks the trainers will be entertaining their charges not only on Mondays, and after the Primorsky Aquarium reopens to visitors, the Baikal seals will be delighted to play with the guests again.