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Protected seals slaughtered on Irish island

Some 60 protected gray seals, including recently born pups, have been killed off the west coast of Ireland in what a wildlife group described as slaughter.
/ Source: Reuters

Some 60 protected  seals, including recently born pups, have been killed off the west coast of Ireland in what a wildlife group described as slaughter.

The Irish Seal Sanctuary said the seals -- most of them pups -- appeared to have been bludgeoned, shot or had nails driven into their heads. Some had been disemboweled.

“The animals were slaughtered,” said the sanctuary’s Pauline Beades. The  seal is a protected species in Ireland.

Divers alerted the sanctuary on Wednesday evening after they spotted some dead seal pups on Beginish Island, off the coast of County Kerry.

“One of our directors went out and discovered that there were 60 if not more,” Beades said. At least one of the pups was new-born and, judging by the number of deaths, almost all the pups born to the seal colony this year were probably killed.

Police confirmed they were investigating the killing of about five adults and 30 seal pups on the island.

It was not immediately clear why the seals had been killed.

“People have suggested it could have been fishermen,” since they complain that seals are cutting into their catches, Beades said. “But I can’t imagine that a fisherman would have been involved.”

However, she said those responsible were likely to have been local. “It’s a treacherous piece of water. It’s not the easiest place to get to so it was definitely people who knew the area well, who knew the tides.”