The beach at Pelican Point in Namibia is covered with more than 5000 dead baby seals, Ocean Conservation Namibia (OCN) said in an Instagram post on Wednesday. Drone footage taken by the OCN shows the beach full of seal pup bodies.
“We are sitting at the cusp of a catastrophe. There are literally thousands of seal pups being born prematurely and dying almost immediately,” OCN said. “This is a natural phenomenon – meaning that when the pregnant female feels she does not have enough reserves, she can abort her fetus. This happens every year to a few individuals, but never on this scale!”
Seals give birth in the middle of November, but sometimes you can see prematurely born seal pups in October. Premature seal pups cannot survive. They are too young and not fully developed.
A few premature deaths is a natural event, but thousands of premature dead seal pups is extremely rare. The beaches are full of little black lumps, OCN said.
According to OCN, there are different reasons for these deaths. The most probable one is starvation; fish might have moved too far away from Pelican Point.
“Our seals look a bit thin, it could likely be caused by a lack of food,” they said. “Other seal colonies look much better, the seals are fatter and they don’t record the same amount of premature pups.”
Other reasons could be toxins or diseases. OCN is working with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to collect samples to conduct biopsies and tests.
OCN said a tragedy like this had happened before in 1994 when starvation led to the loss of roughly a third of the seal population at Pelican Point in Namibia.
The Animal Reader talked to Naude Dreyer from Ocean Conservation Namibia in June about their work rescuing seals.