A 12 week-old harbour seal will swap his flippers for flaps today, boarding a bmi regional flight in Esbjerg, Denmark bound for the city of Aberdeen in Scotland.
For Leif, a Denmark-born harbour seal, the short one hour flight will be just the second stage in a 1253km journey to his new home at St Andrews Aquarium in Fife, and his first opportunity to meet his older brother ,Togo, who was flown over from Denmark just 14 months ago.
Leif, who was born on 27 June, is the second seal to be transferred to St Andrews Aquarium in Scotland from the Fisheries and Maritime Museum in Esbjerg, Denmark, and will be closely followed by his mum, Nelly, on Thursday.
Harbour seals are in steep decline in the UK and Aquariums can only accept the transfer of seals which have been born in another Aquarium, itself a rare occurrence.
Leif will join fellow harbour seals, Laurel and Togo, who are one of the main attractions for St Andrews Aquarium in Fife and it’s expected that visitors will be eager to give their seal of approval to St Andrews’ newest resident, warmly welcoming Leif to his new home later today.
The young seal will make his first flight solo, landing at BAA Aberdeen Airport in the capable hands of bmi regional which operates the daily connection between the Danish city of Esbjerg and Aberdeen.
After clearing immigration at BAA’s Aberdeen Airport, Leif will be transported by road to St Andrews Aquarium in Fife where he will be placed in his own private pool where he will await the arrival of his mum, Nelly who is due to arrive at tea time on Thursday.
The team at St Andrews Aquarium have been preparing for Leif’s arrival for days now and have come up with a solution that allows members of the public to see both Leif and Nelly as they settle into their new life in Scotland, and which is sufficiently far enough away to prevent a repeat of last year’s antics, when resident seal, Laurel, scaled a 4ft high fence to meet her new playmate Togo.
John Mace, manager of St Andrews Aquarium commented: “This time we’re taking no chances. The isolation pool is sealed off, so to speak, but has public viewing and should prevent any curious seal from making any attempt to bridge the divide between the two. For the time being, until we get Leif and Belly settled in they shall just need to wave their flippers and blow bubbles at each other.”
Leif will be followed 24 hours later by his mother, Nelly, on Thursday 20 September for whom the journey will have a poignant ending, when she will be re-united with her 2 year-old seal pup, Togo, who made the same journey to St Andrews Aquarium in July last year.
To celebrate their arrival and ensure a strong welcoming committee, entry to the Aquarium after 4pm on both days will be half-price.