Conservationists are extremely concerned after Nambia Beach sees record-breaking number of dead baby seals wash ashore
Recently, the bodies of thousands of deceased seal pups washed ashore on the coast of Namibia in South Africa, giving rise to concerns from numerous conservationist organizations. Locals were stunned after an estimated 5,000 cape fur seal pups were washed ashore along the coast of the Pelican Point peninsula, instantly transforming the popular tourist destination best known for its lively schools of dolphins and seal colonies into a graveyard. Cape fur seals are commonly called the "dogs of the ocean" due to their playful disposition and abounding energy. That said, seals are also known to abandon their young or suffer miscarriages whenever there are shortages in the food supply.
According to Bloomberg, this year's mass-die off of 5,000 cape seal pups is unprecedented and is currently being investigated by Namibia's fisheries ministry. According to Naude Dreyer, a marine biologist with the Dreyer of Ocean Conservation Namibia, almost all the corpses were of prematurely born pups who are believed to have died quickly.
“When the pregnant female feels she does not have enough reserves, she can abort,” he explained. “A few premature deaths is a natural event, but thousands of premature dead pups are extremely rare.”
Dreyer first noticed the astounding masses of dead seal pups on October 5 while flying a drone over the Pelican Point seal colony.
“This is the situation at Pelican Point, Namibia,” his non-profit group wrote in a Facebook post. “All the little red circles mark dead seal pups. A rough estimate brings the numbers to more than 5,000 at our seal colony alone. This is tragic, as it makes up a large portion of the new pup arrivals expected in late November.”
Cape fur seals are common across the African continent's coastline, from South Africa up to Southern Angola.
“Normally cape fur seals would give birth from mid-November until early December,” Dr. Tess Gridley told Africa News. “That’s the height of pupping that we would normally expect, but what has been happening this year is there has been an increase in abortions that was first seen starting in August and really sort of peaked just last week in October.”
That said, more and more female cape seals appear to be starving and emaciated, causing alarm in the conservation community about the long-term impact on the health of what is usually a thriving seal population.
“There are about 1.7 million cape fur seals in total, and about a million of those are actually in Namibia, so in terms of the overall number of animals, they are quite resilient to these effects,” Gridley explained.
“But one issue that we do think might happen in the future is you will see a dip in reproduction potentially going forward, particularly now for those animals that have unfortunately died,” she continued. “They are not going to be recruited into the population, so you might see a localized effect at the Pelican Point colony, and also we are trying to monitor to see whether there is a wider scale impact that might affect other colonies as well.”
The absence of fish, the main food source for the seals, is widespread across the region as many believe that toxins and the spread of disease are responsible for the reduced fish population.
“The seals look a bit thin, and a lack of food could likely cause it,” Dreyer said. “Other seal colonies at other beaches look much better, and they do not record the same amount of premature pups.”
You can also learn more about this tragic story in the video below.