WWF says lack of ice causing mass death of Baltic seal pups

11th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

The animals are dying of cold and starvation.

Stralsund, Germany -- Hundreds of seal pups are dying of cold and starvation in the Baltic, the international conservation organization WWF said Monday.

"The situation is dire. In some regions perhaps not a single one of the pups born in recent weeks will survive," WWF Baltic spokeswoman Cathrin Muenster said.

Muenster attributed the deaths to the lack of ice covering. This had forced the baby seals to take to the water too early. "There they starve and die a painful death from the cold," she said.

Some seal mothers had given birth on small islands or on the mainland, where the chances of their pups surviving predation was effectively nil, Antti Hallka, a seal expert with WWF Finland, said.

The species affected is the ringed seal, an earless seal found in northern waters all round the world. The Baltic subspecies, which numbers between 7,000 and 10,000, is red-listed by the World Conservation Union as endangered.

Muenster said the Baltic was experiencing the tail end of the warmest winter for almost 300 years. She attributed this to global warming.

The seals required 90 days of ice covering to breed successfully, but indications were that by the end of the century the southern range of the seals' breeding grounds would see its ice covering cut to as little as 18 days, the WWF said.

There are estimated to have been 180,000 ringed seals in the Baltic in 1900. The population was severely reduced by hunting and pollution, but began to recover in the 1980s.

DPA with Expatica

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