Updated 08:46 AM EST, Sun, Dec 04, 2016
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Chile Sees Dead Sea Lions

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Sea Lion
BEDFORDSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 03: Tiny week old California sea lion pup named Oscar seen at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo on July 03, 2015 in Bedfordshire, England. Born to first-time parents Bailey and Dominic on June 18, 2015 the two-week-old male, named Oscar is the first baby to arrive at the Zoo since dad Dominic was born in 2007. Covered in a downy fur, Oscar will grow up to 7.5ft in length and is already showing similarities with dad Dominic who was a notoriously cheeky pup by demanding mums attention at all times. (Photo : Tony Margiocchi / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Marine researchers in Chile got the shock of their lives when they saw dead sea lions washed ashore. They found that the same curious case is also happening elsewhere on South America's Pacific coast.

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:

 

 

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