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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 August 2007, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Monaco prince gets Russian seals
Nerpa seal (file pic)
It remains a mystery how the seals originally came to Lake Baikal
The phrase "official seals of Monaco" has taken on a new meaning, as the principality will soon boast two baby freshwater seals from Siberia.

The mammals - unique to Lake Baikal - were presented to Prince Albert II by Irkutsk regional governor Alexander Tishanin during the monarch's holiday.

The prince is touring Russia and has spent time relaxing with President Vladimir Putin in the Tuva region.

The "nerpa" seal pups will have a new home in Monaco's Oceanographic Museum.

Prince Albert promised the governor that he would "take great care" of the seals.

Lake Baikal
The seals are among many species unique to Lake Baikal
There are estimated to be more than 60,000 nerpa seals in Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake by volume, but they are threatened by hunters and poachers who profit from their pelts.

At birth the seal pups weigh about 4.5kg (9.9 pounds). The adults can weigh as much as 100kg (220 pounds) and measure about 1.3m (4.3ft). Some live longer than 50 years.

Their pelts are silver-grey and they have long, sharp claws for grappling with the ice that covers the lake in the long Siberian winter.

Country profile: Monaco
08 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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