Preliminary studies of the mass death of Caspian seals showed that the animals were infected with bird flu, said Alimurad Gadzhiev, director of the Institute of Ecology and Sustainable Development of Dagestan State University. However, it is too early to conclude that it was the virus that caused the death of animals, he said.
“Specialists of the Institute of Ecology and Sustainable Development, together with colleagues from the Research Institute of Virology and experts from the Compass Foundation, took tissue samples from dead seals in December to determine the causes of death,” quotes Gadzhiev press service of the DSU. “Today, based on the first results, we can say that the samples gave positive results for bird flu.”
At the beginning of December 2022, the North Caucasian Territorial Directorate of the Federal Agency for Fishery reported about 700 dead seals were found on the coast of the Caspian Sea, in the Kirovsky district of Makhachkala, in the area from the Oil Depot to the mouth of the Sulak River.
Alimurad Gadzhiev recalled that in late spring and early summer last year on Maly Zhemchuzhny Island (one of the main Caspian seal rookeries in the Northern Caspian), a mass death of a wild bird from a highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza strain was noted.
“We think that this could have happened to the Caspian seal, as there is evidence that there is an outbreak of this strain all over the world. It kills animals, including marine mammals. Even bears in Alaska are dying from bird flu,” the scientist said, adding that employees of his institute and the Compass Foundation would be able to determine the reliable causes of the death of seals only in the spring.