Russia investigates whether 141 dead seals starved to death
Russian authorities are investigating whether scores of seals starved to death after their carcasses washed up in Siberia on the shoreline of the world's deepest lake.
The dead seals started appearing along the shore of Lake Baikal last weekend, the Irkutsk region's government said in a statement. Most of the 141 seals found so far were pregnant females.
The population of the Baikal earless seal, or nerpa, is estimated to be around 130,000.
The lake near the Mongolian border, 2,600 miles east of Moscow, contains 20% of the world's fresh water and is home to 1,500 species of plants and animals which exist nowhere else in the world.
Alexei Kalinin, environment prosecutor for West Baikal, told the Interfax news agency earlier this week that one of the likeliest causes of the deaths could be the scarcity of food because of the growing nerpa population.
"The dead animals were all hungry. There was no food in their stomachs," Mr Kalinin said.
Authorities have ruled out a disease outbreak, and say lab samples have not shown what could have killed the animals.
The population of the nerpa, Baikal's only mammal, shot up after hunting them was outlawed in 2009. A number of scientists and local leaders have called for allowing limited hunting to control the growing population.