Bird flu triggers devastating loss of young elephant seals in Argentina

Animal News : Bird flu triggers devastating loss of young elephant seals in Argentina

More than 1300 young elephant seals have died due to bird flu in Argentina, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reported. This is the first time the bird flu virus has caused mass fatalities among seals in the country.

The animals were found dead along the shores of the Valdés Peninsula in the southern province of Chubut. Laboratory tests confirmed that the baby elephant seals fell victim to the H5N1 bird flu virus. The virus has also affected seagulls and various other birds.

Under typical circumstances, the mortality rate for newborn elephant seals is 1 percent. However, the spread of the bird flu virus has led to a mortality rate ranging from 56 to 74 percent this year.

There is little information available on adult seals. The WCS has started a mission to combat the virus’s spread among both animal and human populations.

South Georgia, a British island in the southern Atlantic Ocean and often considered an extension of Antarctica, is home to the world’s largest breeding colony of elephant seals.

Recently, confirmed cases of H5N1 infection have emerged among the island’s bird population, sparking fears that the tens of thousands of seals living there may also be affected. The virus’s potential transmission by seabirds to the mainland of Antarctica and other surrounding islands is a significant concern.

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