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VIDEO: Starving Sea Lion Pups Mysteriously Washing Up On Southland Beaches

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Scientists and rescuers in Malibu are working to solve a mystery as dozens of dying sea lion pups are washing up on the beach, and no one knows why.

Employees from the California Wildlife Center have worked feverishly to try and save the pups, though many were found already dead.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Jonsie Ross, one of the rescuers from the center. "It just looks like malnutrition to me."

Officials say hundreds of sea lion pups continue to wash ashore along the LA coastline starved, sick, or dead. The pups are showing up in record numbers, causing great concern.

"Even if I think people have been prepared, we never would have imagined the numbers that are coming up on the beach," said Ross.

Daniel Russell came from Malibu on Friday to enjoy a walk on the beach, but the sight of dead sea lions everywhere was too much for him.

"It kind of ruined our walk around the corner actually. We were going to explore and then I went to take a picture and then there's two dead lions I almost stepped on," he told CBS 2.

Rescuers are trying ot save as many as possible, but all the rescue and rehabilitation centers are at capacity.

Veterinarian Dr. Duane Tom says researchers still don't know exactly why this is happening.

"They've actually declared an unusual mortality event for this and so they are recruiting more resources to try to find out what's making these lions sick," he said.

So far, scientists say nearly half of all the sea lion pups born in island rookeries off Southern California this season have died as hundreds of starving others fight to survive.

Wildlife biologists don't know whether the problem is food availability, disease or a combination of both.

Southern California rescue centers have become so overwhelmed they have had to start sending starving pups to Northern California. And biologists say it is so bad on the beaches that rescuers have had to leave the worst of the pups behind while saving the strongest ones.

(© Copyright 2013 CBS - The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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