Fur seal teaches humans what to do with plastic thrown into water

01 May 2013 | News story

WWF Panda Planet wanted to teach the importance of recycling plastic and not throwing it into water or nature. To help communicate the message and make garbage more amusing, CEC member Sandra Jönsson Bäckman let the seal tell the story

During Earth Hour, WWF Panda Planet (WWF Sweden’s new community for youth) took a lesson from a fur seal to communicate our message – do not throw plastic garbage into nature or the ocean; help us clean it up!

The fur seal is named Tinny, she lives at Kolmården Wildlife Park in Sweden. Tinny is trained to pick up plastic thrown in her water enclosure and drop it into a recycle box. We filmed a short episode, with Tinny’s zoo keeper Sunna, Tinny the seal, and myself (I am the editor for Panda Planet). In the movie, we tell a story about how much plastic can be found in our oceans and why it is dangerous for animals, then we ask Tinny to show us humans how to do it properly!

This short text and video became very popular, we wrote an “I will if you will” (Earth Hour challenge) based upon this, and promised Panda Planet will clean up an entire beach if 1000 people recycle all their plastic over a one year period. 2400 people responded to it on facebook! The fur seal and her recycling behaviour was picked up in a Swedish magazine. It also became very appreciated on facebook and on our own website, pandaplanet.se. The movie can be found on our site, the text is written in Swedish.

We made a beautiful seal into a message carrier, and she helped us make plastic garbage something interesting, a little more amusing and a somewhat less unimportant. Instead of only talking about the problem, we gave a short but serious message, and then talked about taking action, what to do – and with the help of a cute fur seal named Tinny, anybody can recycle plastic garbage! In addition to this story we conducted a short test called “test yourself, what kind of garbage are you” – our members answered ten different reality based funny questions, and then became either plastic, paper, food leftover, glass, metal or toxic garbage. This was done to give garbage importance, make it amusing, a little bit personalized and simply more than just garbage! 

Contact: Sandra Jönsson Bäckman, sandra.jonsson@wwf.se