2,500 endangered seals wash ashore in Russia (VIDEO)
The number of endangered seals that have been found dead on the coast of the Caspian Sea has reached 2,500, the authorities in Russia’s southern Dagestan Republic said on Sunday. Regional environmental officials say natural factors are likely behind the incident.
Zaur Gapizov, the director general of the Caspian Nature Protection Center, said they seem to have perished at least two weeks ago and were washed ashore by a storm. “There are no signs that they were killed, no remains of fishing nets have been found,” he noted, adding that the local authorities are continuing to examine the coast. Gapizov added that, “most likely, the number of dead seals is much higher.”
According to Dagestan’s Environment Ministry, the carcasses were found near the Yuzbash channel, as well as between the estuaries of the Sulak and Shurinka rivers. The ministry said that “the condition of the internal organs of the examined seals did not confirm the hypothesis that they had been poisoned with heavy metals or pesticides.”
The ministry has sent samples to laboratories in Moscow and the city of Astrakhan in southern Russia. Officials added that mass deaths of seals were previously recorded in 2012 and 2016.
Svetlana Rodionova, the head of environmental regulator Rosprirodnadzor, told Russia 24 TV on Monday that the animals exhibited signs of hypoxia, or insufficient levels of oxygen. She added that a thorough analysis of water samples will be completed by the end of the week.
According to the Caspian Nature Protection Center, the total number of Caspian seals does not exceed 70,000. The animals have been listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) since 2008.
Dagestan’s Environment Ministry, however, described the Caspian seal population as stable, adding that between 270,000 and 300,000 live in the region.