Courtesy Vladimir Burkanov
This one-of-a-kind baby seal is catching the eye of animal experts.
Last week, Vladimir Burkanov, a marine mammal biologist, shared on Instagram footage and photographs that he captured on Tyuleny Island in Russia of a rare albino seal pup. In the wildlife photos, the orange-colored seal sticks out among its darker peers, waddling its flippers and sitting beside other babies.
The unique pup has been nicknamed the Ugly Duckling.
"'Ugly duck' - albino fur seal is rare event. ... looks more red than white. This is a clear albino without any pigmentation even in eyes," Burkanov captioned a post on Instagram, translated to English.
In a subsequent Instagram post, Burkanov shared information about a similar case of an albino seal, sharing a photograph by colleague Sergey Fomin of a light-colored seal perched on a rock. The snapshot is from Bering Island in Fall 2017.
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"The animal was 2 or 3 years old and physically in good shape, even it was clear it had poor sight," he wrote of the other case, adding that Sergey confirmed he photographed the same albino animal this past summer.
"I turned to him to clarify the age of that albino, and Sergey relayed to me that he had seen and photographed the same male this summer again!" wrote Burkanov. "In the exact location of the Severo-Zapadnoe rookery, where he photographed the animal in the fall of 2017."
Courtesy Vladimir Burkanov
"The albino is now matured bull 5-6 years old. He did not participate in reproduction this season and was seen on the bachelor section of the rookery only," updated the biologist. "Perhaps, this is the first documented case of the survival of a northern fur seal of an abnormal color to adulthood."
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According to the Daily Mail, the rare occurrence of an albino seal is about a 1 in 100,000 chance — and they can be at risk of being rejected by other seals. Burkanov told the outlet, however, that the seal he spotted isn't completely shunned.
"This pup looks well-fed and was very active, so its mother clearly gave it plenty of milk," he said. "But it is not getting chased or bitten [by other seals]."
The biologist added that animal experts are monitoring the seal and plan to intervene should the rare pup become an outcast to its community and need outside care.