About 2,500 endangered seals have been found dead on Russia’s Caspian Sea coast, state news agency RIA Novosti reported on Sunday, citing authorities in the North Caucasus region.
Caspian seals, the only mammals found in the Caspian Sea, have been listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List since 2008.
Seals drifted off the coast of the Russian Republic of Dagestan, along the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest landlocked body of water, bordered by five countries: Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan.
Dagestan’s Ministry of Natural Resources said the animals died of “natural factors” and warned that the number of dead seals was likely to be much higher.
Judging by their appearance, the ministry said the seals had been dead for about two weeks and there were “no signs of a violent death, no fishing nets left.”
According to the RIA, inspectors have been patrolling the coast looking for other dead seals. On the other hand, specialists from the Caspian Ecology Center were analyzing samples from dead seals to determine the cause of death.
The mass deaths come after more than 140 Caspian seals were found dead on Kazakh beaches on the Caspian Sea earlier this year, according to the Caspian Seal Conservation Agency Kaspika.
According to the IUCN, the Caspian seal population has suffered from overfishing, habitat degradation, and climate change.
In the aftermath of this incident, the Dagestan Ministry said the total number of Caspian seals in the region remains stable, “ranging from 270,000 to 300,000”.
Seals feed mainly on fish, which can reach over 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) in length and weigh up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds), and are at the top of the food pyramid and have no natural enemies like adults, according to the RIA.
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