Thousands of dead seal pups have washed ashore on the coast of Namibia, a conservancy group said on Wednesday.
The pups were found at Pelican Point peninsula, a tourist destination known for its colony of seals and school of dolphins.
Drone footage taken by Ocean Conservation Namibia (OCN) shows the coast dotted with more than 5,000 dead seal pups, the group said.
“We are sitting at the cusp of a catastrophe. There are literally thousands of seal pups being born prematurely and dying almost immediately,” it said in an Instagram post.
It said previously some female seals had been observed to abort their foetus when they felt there was not enough food available. “This happens every year to a few individuals, but never on this scale!”
The Ministry of Fisheries said researchers had noticed higher than normal numbers of seal abortions at Pelican Point but could not establish a reason or give numbers.
“We cannot attach a number to it as we are still gathering data,” Graça D’Almeida, Director of Resources Management at the ministry, said.
But OCN says starvation is the most probable cause as fish, the seals’ main source of food, have moved from Pelican Point.
It said other reasons could be toxins or diseases but nothing could be confirmed without proper study.
OCN is working with the fisheries ministry to conduct biopsies and tests.
A similar tragedy occurred in 1994 when starvation led to the loss of about a third of the seal population at Pelican Point, OCN said.