Seals can get a fairly bad rep around the nautical world.
Some refer to them as the ‘rats of the sea’, and fishing communities often consider them to be vermin-like competition for their businesses because they eat fish for sustenance, as well.
This 2014 video from off the coast of the Scilly Isles in Great Britain, though, serves as a great image rehabilitator for the aquatic creatures.
Diver Gary Grayson was swimming in the waters near the Scilly Isles, off the southern tip of Cornwall.
While exploring, he came across a pair of seals. One of the two wasn’t all that interested in human contact, shifting away from him and avoiding much in the way of interaction.
The other, though, wiggled up close to him, nudging the diver with its flipper and touching noses. Grayson put his hand out, thinking perhaps that the seal wanted to get a closer look at some of his diving equipment — but instead, the seal directed his hand towards the sea creature’s stomach for a good pat!
The video of Grayson rubbing the seal’s belly went viral, because it’s highly adorable.
It’s also fairly rare.
According to Seal Rescue Island director Ally McMillan in County Wexford, Ireland, seals that are willing to get that close to humans have likely spent plenty of time near and around divers. The majority of seals, she revealed, are actually much fiercer in their natural habitat; while this one just wanted a bit of love, most would see a hand moving towards their underbellies as a threat. Seals may look cute and small, but they certainly know how to bite, and that’s precisely what they’d be more likely to do.
“[Those] seals have become,” McMillan explained to The Huffington Post, “obviously, very used to people.”
“Not all seals are like this,” she cautioned. “If approached, [others] could well cause harm.”
In addition, humans wouldn’t necessarily be allowed to touch seals like that in every environment. As UK’s Marine Management Organization director John Gargett revealed, Great Britain only has limitations against the harming or killing of seals, as would be the case in those fishing villages that consider seals to be their biggest competition for seafood.
That leaves Grayson open to play with the seal that wanted attention — but in other regions, any type of interaction with seals in the wild is considered illegal. So, unfortunately, heartstruck onlookers of the video aren’t likely to have a repeat performance themselves; it’s best, after all, to leave the wild animals (including seals) to be, well, wild.
As McMillan emphasized, though, this particular video may do more good than harm.
For those who still are hesitant to love seals like they do other adorable creatures of nature, seeing the friendly side of the species could be a nice way to turn the tables. And for others, it’s a decidedly heartwarming interaction out on (or under) the high seas.
Seals are curious, she explained, and can be even ‘dog-like’. This video does an excellent job of showcasing that for sure.
By endearing the creatures, she hopes that fewer man-made injuries to seals will come in to marine life centers; hopefully, the adorable viral video does its part to help aid in that desire.