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An estimated 7,000 Cape fur seals were found dead near a breeding colony in central Namibia.
Conservationist Naude Dreyer of the charity Ocean Conservation Namibia began noticing dead seals littering the sandy beaches of the Pelican Point colony near Walvis Bay city in September.
Dr Tess Gridley from the Namibian Dolphin Project said that in the first two weeks of October, he found large numbers of seal foetuses at the colony.
The fur seals gave birth between mid-November and mid-December. Gridley estimated that between 5,000 to 7,000 female seals had miscarried young, and there are more yet to be discovered.
The cause of mass death is still unknown. Although the scientists suspect anything from pollutants or bacterial infection could lead to malnutrition and result in death. Some of those found dead were "thin-looking, emaciated, with very little fat reserves," said Gridley.
In 1994, nearly 10,000 seals died, and around 15,000 foetuses were aborted. At that time, it was linked to starvation that is suspected to have resulted from a shortage of fish as well as from a bacterial infection at another breeding colony in Cape Cross, some 116 kilometres north of the central tourist town Swakopmund.
The executive director, Annely Haiphene, in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, told that she suspected the seals died from "lack of food" but will wait for the results of the tests.
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