South Africa investigates seal deaths along Cape coast

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CAPE TOWN, Nov 9 (Reuters) - South African officials are investigating an alarming rise in seal deaths along the west coast near Cape Town, with malnutrition one potential cause.

A Reuters photographer saw scores of seal carcasses on beaches in Cape Town and along the rugged Atlantic Ocean coastline north of the city last week. Several more dead seals were floating in the water.

James-Brent Styan, spokesman for the Western Cape province's environment department, said seal deaths at this time of year were normal, but not to this extent.

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"Not on the levels we are currently experiencing, so that is why we are so concerned," he said. "One of the early theories is that it might be malnutrition, lots of the seal carcasses are small, but it is only a theory."

The provincial government said last week that it had buried almost 200 seals.

Styan said officials hoped to have more information once reports come back from the state veterinary service.

Experts believe an Avian Influenza epidemic affecting wild seabirds in the Western Cape is probably not behind the latest spate of seal deaths.

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Reporting by Mike Hutchings and Sisipho Skweyiya, Writing by Alexander Winning, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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