Snow falls gently on the frozen surface of Lake Saimaa, the country’s largest lake, as a blue dawn breaks over eastern Finland. Mikko Uimonen grabs a broad snow shovel known as a “snow pusher” and uses it to pile up deep snowdrifts by the rocky lakeshore.
At first it’s hard to imagine why anyone should take on such a herculean task, but Uimonen and his fellow volunteers are working for a good cause: they’re helping the Saimaa ringed seals, endangered freshwater seals that live in the labyrinth of bays and islands that make up the lake. Their total population is estimated at 360.
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