After being shunned by a seal colony in the wild, the “world’s loneliest seal” is being given a second chance after being taken in by a Russian aquarium.
The seal now dubbed Nafanya, after a popular Soviet-era cartoon, initially gained fans after being spotted by nature photographer Anatoly Strakhov. The photographer noticed the unusually colored fur seal hiding under a pile of logs, far from the other seals that had congregated near the water.
“I was pleased to be able to capture such an unusual animal, but the poor seal is almost blind and so was unlikely to survive in the wild,” Strakhov, 61, told the UK’s Daily Mail.
However, Nafanya is now thriving after she was flown nearly 8,000 miles to the Akvatoria dolphinarium in Adler, Russia, according to the Daily Mail. Yulia Frolova, who heads the dolphinarium, says that Nafanya is not as blind as initially thought and is able to play with and chase her fish at feeding time.
“She has a good appetite, and always seems in a happy mood. She is such an unusual seal with very beautiful bright blue eyes,” Frolova told the Daily Mail.
Fur seals are typically a dark chocolate brown, and appear almost black when wet — a sharp contrast from this young seal’s pink flippers and light-colored eyes.
“It’s a much lighter color than you would normally see in a fur seal,” said Dudley Wigdahl, curator for mammals and birds at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif. Wigdahl, told ABCNews.com he has never seen a seal with this coloring before.
Albino features often create problems for animals in the wild because they are more easily spotted by predators. Sometimes these animals also suffer from poor eyesight. However, in the protective setting of an aquarium, Nafanya’s albino features should not be a disadvantage.
“[She] may live a relatively healthy life,” Wigdahl said.
While Nafanya is currently in quarantine, the pup will not be considered the “loneliest” seal for much longer. Along with her devoted caretakers, Nafanya is gaining international followers due to a web cam installed in her tank.