Where is the best place to keep seals? This question has led to heated discussion on Chinese social media after two spotted seals were seen swimming in Baotu Spring in Jinan, east China's Shandong province, one of the nation’s most renowned artesian karst springs.
Photos of the seals in Baotu Spring were first posted by a netizen on Jan. 3, who questioned the legality of raising the seals in fresh water. As of Wednesday, the topic has received over 30 million views on Sina Weibo, with many people expressing concern over the health of the animals, especially as one of the seals has allegedly caught an eye disease.
Some netizens think that the seals were introduced to the spring to bring good luck, because the characters for seal in Chinese (Hai Bao) share the same pronunciation as the spring’s name (Bao Tu). Thus, they claims, the animals were brought to revive the waters, since Baotu Spring has seen less artesian activities in recent years.
Local residents said the seals are a fairly recent addition to the spring and believe that their presence adds vitality to the scenic spot. “They look comfortable in the cold spring water. They also have more room than at a zoo,” a resident said.
On Tuesday, the authority that manages the scenic spot responded, saying that keeping spotted seals is a common practice on the Chinese mainland and the scenic spot started the practice as early as 1970s. It also listed a series of licenses it has acquired over the years to prove the legality of the practice. However, they denied the allegation that the seals were introduced to bring good luck, calling the claim rumormongering.
As for the sick seal, the management authority said it has taken notice of the animal and it was diagnosed with keratitis, a common eye disease for captive-bred seals in fresh water. The seal has been put under careful medical treatment.
There is a notice board on the bank of the spring warning tourists against feeding the seals. The board also introduced that the seals eat some 3 to 4 kilograms of fresh fish every day.