MOSCOW (AP) — About 1,700 seals have been found dead on the shores of the Caspian Sea in southern Russia, officials said Sunday.
Authorities in the Russian province of Dagestan said it was still unclear what caused the animals’ deaths, but that they likely died of natural causes.
Regional officials initially said on Saturday that 700 dead seals had been found on the coast, but on Sunday, Zaur Gapizov, head of the Caspian Center for Environmental Protection, said, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti, that after a wider inspection of the coast, the number of dead animals was 1,700.
Gapizov said the seals probably died a few weeks ago. He added that there are no signs that they were killed by poachers.
Federal Fisheries Agency experts and prosecutors surveyed the coast and collected data for laboratory tests that did not immediately detect any contaminants.
Several previous incidents of mass seal deaths have been attributed to natural causes.
Data on the number of seals in the Caspian Sea vary widely. The Fisheries Agency reported that the total number of Caspian seals is 270,000-300,000, while the Gapiz Center estimated the number at 70,000.