By WILL STEWART
Star attraction: Happy in her new home at the Akvatoria 'dolphinarium' in Russia, ginger seal Nafanya is quickly becoming a hit with tourists
Things are looking up for the little ginger-coloured seal pup whose fate touched the world after being rejected by the rest of its sleek black family.
Left as an outcast, the vulnerable creature was found huddling under a pile of logs on Tyuleniy Island in the far east of Russia.
Photographer Anatoly Strakhov, 61, took heartbreaking pictures of the world's loneliest seal, which would have been unable to survive in the wild.
Heartbreaker: Anatoly Strakhov's shot of the shunned seal melted the hearts of animal lovers worldwide
Two months on and Russians have taken the rare albino seal - who turns out to be female - to their hearts.
Named Nafanya - after a lookalike Soviet cartoon character - the seal was given VIP treatment and has now moved into a plush new home at the country's leading aqauarium.
Nafanya was taken on a 7,890-mile odyssey to the Russian mainland and then by special plane to Adler, near Sochi on the Black Sea coast, where she is rapidly becoming a star attraction.
Yulia Frolova, head of the Akvatoria dolphinarium - Nafanya's new home, said: 'She now has a special enclosure with a pool, and two weeks after her arrival, people are already coming to see her.
And, quickly adapting to life among humans, the seal has her own live webcam so her worldwide fans can follow her - http://www.nafanya-sochi.ru/ - which broadcasts between 7am and 1pm UK time.
Miss Frolova said: 'She has a good appetite, and always seems in a happy mood. She is such an unusual seal with very beautiful bright blue eyes. When she arrived, she was tired after the long flight, but soon picked up her appetite.'
What's in a name? The seal bears a striking resemblance to Nafanya, a Soviet-era cartoon character
Experts at the dolphinarium say Nafanya's eyesight is not as poor as at first feared. Originally thought to be almost blind, it turns out she only has trouble seeing in bright sunlight. And, given her celebrity status, some dark sunglasses may not be a bad idea.
Her keepers say she loves being the centre of attention, and Ms Frolova added: 'She has a playful nature. She loves to play with her toy - a small blue ball.
'But what she likes the most its to play with a fish at feeding time. She will follow it, catch it, put it in her mouth, release it and finally eat it.
Still lonely: Nafanya can't shrug off the title as 'loneliest seal in the world' yet, as she has to be kept in quarantine for a month before joining other seals at the aquarium
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Loneliest seal in the world, shunned by her colony for being ginger, is now the centre of attention at Russian zoo... and loving it
By WILL STEWART