In The News South Africa

Over 140 dead seals in Lake Baikal

Moscow– The discovery of over 140 dead seals in Siberia’s Lake
Baikal has puzzled scientists and led to fears of an epidemic among
the rare species.

 

 

“All carcasses belonged to fully-grown and strong animals, 80 per
cent of which are pregnant females,” officials in the nearby city of
Irkutsk said in a statement released Friday.

 

 

Experts have been working for days to establish the cause of the mass
deaths.

 

 

The Baikal seal is found only in Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and
deepest lake, and is one of the few species of seal found in fresh
water.

 

 

Russian authorities estimate the Baikal seal population at around
128,000.

 

Local authorities have called for a joint commission to investigate
the deaths.

 

While the mysterious plight is not thought to pose a risk to humans,
state prosecutors have warned locals against coming into contact with
the seals’ flesh. Local media had previously reported that some
people in the area had fed the seal meat to dogs.

 

 

Initial analysis showed that the animals died of cardiac arrest, news
agency TASS reported, citing Sergei Grochotov of the veterinary
office in Irkutsk.

 

Conservationists also examined the dead seals’ stomachs and digestive
tracts, which were empty, implying that they may have been
malnourished. Scientists are now looking at water samples and animals
lower in the food chain to find the route of the problem.

 

The endemic seals are one of the many attractions at Lake Baikal, a
popular stop along the Trans-Siberian railway and one of Russia’s
major tourist magnets.

 

-DPA

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