Hundreds of dead sea lions have washed up along Chile’s northern shoreline, most of them newborn pups.
Marine researchers are looking into the strange occurrence that is also taking place elsewhere on South America’s Pacific coastline.
The aftermath of the recent El Niño weather phenomenon in the Pacific has been blamed for causing starvation among sea lion population, by disrupting their food chain.
Latin One reports:
For the past three moths, dead sea lions are dying and washing up ashore. The American sea lions are called Otaria flavescens. Most of those that are dying off are newborns, with a few adults and juveniles. This makes the problem even more significant.
Researcher Carlos Guerra-Correa said that Chile’s neighboring countries are also experiencing this. “This is happening along the entire coast of northern Chile and we’re getting reports that it’s also happening in Peru, our neighbor to the north,” researcher Carlos Guerra-Correa said. “We could be talking about hundreds of sea lions washing up ashore dead in the entire region.”
Guerra-Correa added that it is alarming that most of the dead sea mammals are literally just babies. “Some of the dead animals we have found still had their umbilical cord attached,” Guerra-Correa said. “We found one with a placenta,” he added.
The expert also provided several reasons why this is happening. According to him, the El Nino is a significant culprit. El Nino is causing the tropical Pacific to bring warm water to the coasts of Chile. Warm water, however, does not possess the same nutrients of phytoplankton found in cold water. Phytoplankton nurtures the sardines and anchovies that sea lions love to eat.
Without sardines and anchovies, sea lions might be starving to death. According to Guerra-Correa, the female sea lions in the latter stages of their pregnancy are the most vulnerable ones. Without the nutrients they need, they can be miscarrying or delivering weak babies that die the moment they are born.
In a related news, experts said that there is an ongoing fish famine that is barring mothers from producing enough milk for their baby sea lions to become stronger. As the mother sea lions scout for food in further waters, they can be gone for days, leaving their pups to starve.
Some pups may also look for food themselves, even though they are not physically ready to be apart from their moms yet. They die as a result.
Here is a video of a killer whale hunting baby sea lions:
National Geographic YouTube video:
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