Up to the 16th century, Germanic fishermen had a heart of stone when they brought the North Sea grey seal to near-extinction, seeing them as competitors for the precious fish in the area.
But the animal is more than just beady eyes and furry flippers. They never surrendered to the human menace and waited for centuries for the chance to reclaim their territory.
Until 1967 to be exact, when the species first reappeared in German waters around the island of Amrum. Roughly 30 years later, the first infant seal was born on Helgoland.
Grey seals on a Helgoland beach in 2008. Photo: DPA
Ever since, grey seals have been busily reclaiming their former empire. Last year alone, 247 pups saw the light of day and felt the salty breeze of the Northern sea.
This year counts 317 newborns, which is “an absolute record” according to Helgoland seal expert Rolf Bäbel.
Map of the seal colonies in the tidelands of the North Sea; Photo DPA
The cubbing season lasts from November through February, but seal lovers shouldn't worry: the pups are born with thick fur to protect them from the icy winds of the North Sea's cold season.
Naturally more and more German tourists feel drawn by the squealing cuteness and have been making their way up to the islands.
But there's a warning from the expert about getting too close.
“The female seals are aggressive about protecting their children”, says Bäbel.
With reason – who wouldn't want to kidnap and cuddle with one of these little pups?
Mother seal canoodling with her young one; Photo DPA
SEE ALSO: What's killing all the North Sea seals?