Lake Baikal, Russia
The pearl of Siberia
Nicknamed the Pearl of Siberia, Lake Baikal holds about 20% of the world's fresh surface water - more water than all of the North American Great Lakes combined.
Protecting the lake's natural treasures
Bears, elk, lynx and other wildlife abound in the surrounding forests and mountains.
Despite its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lake Baikal continues to come under threat from industrial pollution, agricultural run-off and other environmental problems, including nearby mining activities and potential oil and gas exploration.
The threat of an oil pipeline along the lake’s north shore was averted in 2006 thanks to efforts by WWF and many other environmental organizations.
Meet the nerpa
It is separated by 3,220km of land and mountains from its nearest relative, the Arctic ringed seal.
Baikal seals are the only seal that lives entirely in freshwater, and can remain under water for up to 45-60 minutes. This is due to the extraordinary capacity of their blood to hold oxygen, and allows them to dive to depths of almost 300m.
Although the Baikal seal population is estimated to be over 60,000, hunting, poaching and pollution are reducing their numbers.