19 September 2009


Steve Jones once described Finland as 'a dilute solution of land in water'...Many thousands of years ago, when the Finnish landmass was weighed down by glacial ice sheets Saimaa [the largest of its lakes] had opened onto the Baltic Sea, and now it was home to a relict of its marine past that had become trapped as the land rose again after the retreat of the ice. This animal [the Saimaa Ringed Seal] was called norpaa in Finnish, and was extremely rare; when I was a child it was estimated that there may only be 100 norppa left in the huge lake, because although it was one of Finland's most-loved animals, it had been heavily hunted in the past century....

And then, one day out on the lake, fishing with my uncle under a huge blue sky, there it was. I looked up from the red and white cork bobbing beside the boat to see a whiskered snout and inquisitive black eyes peering back at me out of the water, out near the skerries close to the shipping channel and far from shore. Then, maybe only a second later, the shiny wet seal disappeared again into the tea-black waters of Saimaa. I never saw it again.
-- from Witness to Extinction: How We Failed to Save the Yangtse River Dolphin by Sam Turvey

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