Support The Moscow Times!

Starvation Likely Led to Mass Seal Deaths, Siberian Vets Say

Sergey Gabdurakhmanov / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Siberian veterinarians say the more than one hundred seals that washed up on the shores of Lake Baikal may have died from hunger, the state-run news agency TASS reports.

Roughly 132 seal carcasses were found at three locations near the lake, prompting environmental authorities to launch an investigation. The earless species native to Lake Baikal with a population of up to 130,000 is commonly referred to as the nerpa in Russian. 

“There’s the possibility that a lack of appetite in the animals may have led to [cardiac arrest],” Sergei Grokhotov, head of agriculture watchdog Rosselkhonadzor’s veterinary department, told TASS.

“They have in effect died from exhaustion,” Grokhotov said, pointing out that biopsies conducted on the corpses did not reveal any organ damage.

Veterinarians will now inspect the seals' food chain to find out why the mammals chose to go without food.

The mass deaths follow recent reports that a tourist boom and pollution has led to the disappearance of local fish species and a growth of putrid algae in Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater lake.

After President Vladimir Putin ordered government agencies to crack down on Lake Baikal polluters on Oct. 25, prosecutors have opened dozens of criminal cases connected to the violation of environmental protection rules.

Read more

Independent journalism isn’t dead. You can help keep it alive.

As the only remaining independent, English-language news source reporting from Russia, The Moscow Times plays a critical role in connecting Russia to the world.

Editorial decisions are made entirely by journalists in our newsroom, who adhere to the highest ethical standards. We fearlessly cover issues that are often considered off-limits or taboo in Russia, from domestic violence and LGBT issues to the climate crisis and a secretive nuclear blast that exposed unknowing doctors to radiation.

Please consider making a one-time donation — or better still a recurring donation — to The Moscow Times to help us continue producing vital, high-quality journalism about the world's largest country.