About 2,500 Caspian seals have been found dead off the coast of Dagestan, Russia. The Caspian Sea, despite its name, is not a sea but an endorheic basin (that is, without emissaries); it is the largest inland body of water on earth; bathes Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
The Dagestan Ministry of Natural Resources said the animals died of natural causes; there were no signs of violence or fishing nets. Judging by the decay of their bodies, according to the Dagestan Environmental Protection Center (quoted from the BBC) it is probable that the death occurred a couple of weeks ago.
Caspian seals are the only mammals to inhabit this basin. They have been on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of endangered species since 2008. The main threat is not their natural predator (fish eagles) but humans.
In the last century the population of Caspian seals decreased by 70% due to hunting: the fur and blubber of this animal were in fact very popular. In this century the greatest dangers derive from the changes brought to their habitat by the development of the coast and by climate warming; there is also the risk of getting entangled in fishermen’s nets (sturgeon in particular).
According to the ministry, quoted from the Cnnthe number of dead seals could grow in the coming days but the quota of live specimens is stable at around 270-300 thousand.