Corpses of more than 2,500 endangered Caspian seals were found Sunday on a beach in southern Russia, which scientists said died of “natural factors” — but natural resource watchdogs point to natural gas emissions.
Zaur Gapizov, the head of the Caspian Environmental Protection Center, told The Associated Press the seals likely died a few weeks ago and there is no sign of them being killed or caught in fishing nets.
About 700 dead seals were sighted off the coast of the Caspian Sea on Saturday, but the number increased dramatically in 24 hours.
Natural resource Svetlana Radionova of the natural resources watchdog agency Rosprirodnadzor said hypoxia is the most likely cause and scientists are investigating whether natural gas emissions in the Caspian Sea could be to blame for the low oxygen levels.
This isn’t the endangered animal’s first mass death – a similar event occurred in December 2021 and these animals were also found to have died from natural causes.
A beach along the Caspian Sea was littered with the dead bodies of more than 2,500 seals that washed ashore this weekend
According to reports on Telegrambodies were found in several locations, many in the Yuzbash area and between the mouths of the Sulak and Shurinka rivers.
Judging by their appearance, the seals died about two weeks ago and there were “no signs of violent death, no remains of fishing nets,” the Dagestan Ministry of Natural Resources said.
However, scientists are still examining the bodies.
Caspian seals were added to the list of endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2008 because their population declined by more than 70 percent in the 20th century, according to IUCN.
The decline is due to overhunting, habitat degradation and climate change.
After this incident, the Dagestan ministry said the total number of Caspian seals remains stable, “ranging from 270,000 to 300,000.”
A year ago, another mass death of more than 300 Caspian seals occurred.
Officials found 700 on Saturday, but when they returned the next day, there were more than 2,500
Scientists said the animals had been dead for weeks. While experts report “natural factors,” some speculate the deaths were caused by natural gas emissions
According to an eyewitness report, the bodies washed up on a stretch of coast near the port city of Türkmenbaşy.
‘Members of the naval forces recovered many dead seals in January. There were hundreds,” said a Turkmen border guard Radio Azatlyk explained.
‘Moreover, there are many dead fish and birds on the coast […] our superiors demand that we remain silent. Scientists from Ashgabat are trying to determine the seals’ cause of death, whether it’s a virus or waste dumped by local factories.’
An examination of the corpses found that the seals’ organs showed no signs of heavy metal or pesticide poisoning, said biologist Vyacheslav Bisikov, who was involved in the study, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
Experts also analyzed tissue samples, looking for the presence of the coronavirus, which was also negative.
Records show that dead seals are sighted on the coast once every few years, but lately the occurrences have become more frequent.
Not far from the gruesome scene on the beach is another mystery of dead monk seals, also endangered, washing up on the shores of Hawaii.
In December 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that the young female seal found dead on the island of Molokai in September had been executed with a gunshot to the head.
Caspian seals were added to the endangered species list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2008 due to a population decline of more than 70 percent during the 20th century
This was the third confirmed deliberate killing of a monk seal on Molokaʻi in 2021, with several other seal deaths investigated on the island this year, and the seventh seal killed in the last 10 years.
An examination of the carcass revealed a bullet fragment in its head, which the NOAA says is “associated with evidence of severe, fatal trauma.”
“These deliberate killings of this endangered species are devastating to the recovery of this population,” the NOAA statement said.
Boki Chung, who reported the dead seal to federal authorities, said she was walking along the south coast at Kawela Stream — just like the day before, according to Honolulu Civil Beat.
And when Chung saw a figure in the sand, she looked closer and was surprised to see the lifeless seal lying in the sand.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced in December 2021 that a young female seal found dead on the island of Molokai in September was executed by a gunshot to the head
The examination of the carcass revealed a bullet fragment in its head, which NOAA said is “associated with evidence of severe, fatal trauma.”
Todd Yamashita, operational manager of the Hawaii Marine Animal Response on Molokai, has been following the one-year-old female, also known as L11, since birth.
When Yamashita learned of the seal’s death, “he cried on and off for a day.”
Unfortunately, two other monk seals were killed by ‘blunt trauma’ on Molokai in April.
Both seals — a four-year-old male, RJ08, and a three-year-old female, RK92 — were found dead on the west side of Molokai on April 27, officials said.
The results of the autopsy examination indicate that both seals died as a result of human-inflicted trauma.
“There is a strong, entrenched tradition of natural resource management on Molokai, and we know news of these deaths will be keenly felt by many on the island,” NOAA Fisheries said in a statement posted online.
“We are grateful to the community and our network partners for their assistance in recovering and transporting the seals.
“We remain committed to supporting community-based conservation efforts for these native monk seals on the island.”
There are only a few hundred monk seals left on the main Hawaiian Islands, with about 1,100 remaining on the remote, uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.