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Cause of death of Aphrodite the seal still unclear

May 22, 2019 at 3:53pm
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The cause of death of a young and highly endangered Mediterranean seal remains inconclusive after a post-mortem examination carried out on Wednesday, an official told Radio Active.

Aphrodite, a five and a half month seal, was found dead close to the coast near Paphos’ Tombs of the Kings on Tuesday afternoon.

Initially reports said that the young seal had become entangled in fishermen’s nets, but Harris Nicolaou — who coordinates Cyprus’ programme to protect the Mediterranean seal — said that this was not the case.

He said Aphrodite had no external injuries and there was no clear indication of the cause of death. Tests will be carried out on tissues taken from the seal here and abroad. One possible cause of death is bacteria, he said.

“There is nothing to announce at present, nothing that tells us what is to blame,” he told Radio Active.

Nicolaou said that there have been cases that young seals develop bacteria as they switch from their mother’s milk to fish. Such instances are difficult to control.

He added that because of their inexperience, there have been reported cases of young seals getting caught in fishermen’s nets and it would be unfair in such cases to blame the fishermen.

Asked to comment on criticism that authorities have not done enough to protect the seals and their refuge in Peyia, Nicolaou said that Aphrodite was found at a considerable distance from the sea caves.

“When they become independent from their mothers, seals cover a great distance either to catch food or to explore. We cannot have measures for the entire sea,” he said, adding that the area near the Tombs of the Kings, unlike Peyia caves, was not a Natura 2000 zone.

Aphrodite was born on December 5 and had been observed regularly as part of the seal protection programme.

She had recently become independent from her mother, Nicolaou said, as he voiced sadness at the death of the young seal.

The Mediterranean seal (Monachus monachus) is the most endangered type of seal in the world and the only in the Mediterranean.

Only thirteen of them have been recorded living in Cyprus, in the area of the Peyia sea caves.

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Aphrodite the seal found dead in sea off Paphos