Rare Species Of Ribbon Seal With Four Distinctive Bands Is Most Extraordinary In Animal Kingdom

The Ribbon Seal is a rare mammal that likes to live in the open ocean and is hardly ever seen by humans. It's named for the distinctive bands of black and white that give it a stunning appearance. If you're ever lucky enough to see one you won't soon forget it!

NOAA Fisheries Service describes Ribbon Seals as “the most striking and easily recognizable seals in the world.” Their scientific name is Histriophoca fasciata, and they can be identified by four bands of white that circle the black fur around their neck, tail, and flippers.

According to Earth Touch News, there have only been two sightings of these seals in recent history. The last one was in 2016 on Long Beach Peninsula in Washington state where the NOAA Fisheries Service was able to take some pictures of this beautiful striped seal. Before this, a Ribbon Seal hadn't been spotted since 2012.

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Even though Ribbon Seals are rare, they are not technically endangered. The IUCN Red List actually has them categorized as “Least Concern.” They are not often seen by humans because they prefer to live in open waters, according to the NOAA Fisheries Service. Their main habitat is in the Bering Strait where the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans meet. This icy stretch of water runs between Alaska and Russia and provides an ideal environment for these Arctic seals.

Though Ribbon Seals spend most of their time in the water, they will come up onto floating chunks of ice to molt, have babies, and nurse their young. When the pups are first born, they are generally around 2.8 feet long and weigh approximately 21 pounds (10 kg). This means they have a lot of growing to do to catch up with their parents who can be between 5 and 6 feet long and weigh around 330 pounds (approx. 150 kg).

According to the NOAA Fisheries Service: “Ribbon Seals rely on the availability of suitable sea ice as a haul-out platform for giving birth, nursing pups, and molting. As such, Ribbon Seals are sensitive to changes in the environment that affect the timing and extent of sea ice formation and breakup.”

This means that climate change is actually the largest threat to the continued existence of these exotic animals. They used to be hunted for their stunning fur, but according to Roaring Earth, a natural history website, this practice was cut short by a prohibition put in place by the Soviet Union in 1969.

The IUCN estimates that there are likely 400,000 ribbon seals in the world, which would indicate that “the population is quite large.” However, they also admit that the “current population trend is not known” and estimates that they have are “imprecise.”

“Commercial harvesting of Ribbon Seals stopped in 1994, and numbers have likely been growing since then. The only major threat identified is climate change, and the effects of that are not likely to occur in the near future. Ribbon Seals are classified as Least Concern,” the IUCN noted.

Whatever their official status, these beautiful creatures are a rare sight. Pass this story along to other animal lovers so they can learn about this amazing creature and appreciate what they are seeing if they are lucky enough to spot one in person.

Though these creatures aren't technically endangered, they are very rare and almost never seen by humans since they like to spend their time on ice floes in the frigid open waters of the Bearing Strait. Pass this along to your friends and family to spread the awareness!