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Two More Dolphin Carcasses Spotted in Mumbai as Number of Deaths Pile Up Over the Years

Representative image

Representative image

Three endangered Indian ocean humpback dolphins have turned up dead in Mumbai this week.

On Thursday, two Indian Ocean humpback dolphins washed up dead in Mumbai. The two dolphins, 4ft and 5ft in length respectively, were found in two separate spots - Mahim and Haji Ali. The incident occurred the day after a dolphin carcass washed ashore in South Bombay’s Bandra area. With the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin included in the international Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of ‘endangered species, the growing number of dolphin carcasses is a cause for concern for environmentalists and wildlife experts.

A slew of dead Dolphins

In this year alone, at least four ocean humpback dolphins have washed ashore in Mumbai with Bandra witnessing the maximum number of carcasses. Prior to the one that washed up in Bandra near Cuffe Parade on Monday, a dead humpback was reported to the forest department by the disaster cell of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. The dolphin was later removed and buried at an undisclosed location in Carter Road, Hindustan Times reported at the time.

In January this year, local citizens spotted and reported a dolphin carcass to BMC authorities near the Bandra Bandstand area. Last year, many such sightings occurred and many said it was due to the reduction in human activity due to the lockdown. In 2020, Maharashtra chalked out a plan to conserve oceanic dolphins along Maharashtra’s coastline. The “mangrove cell" of the Maharashtra government submitted the action plan covering over 700 km of Maharashtrian coastline.

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Not a new phenomenon

In 2019, a pod of Indian Humpback Dolphins was seen swimming around in the Bandra-Worli Sea-link area, bringing joy to locals and conservationists. But the sighting of live dolphins are rarer than of dead ones. While the deaths cause concern, they are by no means a new phenomenon. A 2016 report by Firstpost noted that over 100 such incidents had been recorded since 2015. Last year, an 8-ft humpback washed ashore near Bhayandar in July.

But what is causing the deaths?

According to a July 2018 report by the Hindustan Times, autopsy of the dolphin carcasses revealed respiratory diseases to be the cause of death for three of the dolphins. Experts noted that rising pollution levels may be affecting respiratory health among aquatic mammals. Makarand Ghodke, assistant conservator of forest in the mangrove cell had in 2018 said that coastal pollution was one of the leading causes for the destruction of the natural habitats of marine species.

Whether it was pollution that caused the deaths of the two dolphins that washed up this week remains unclear, the bloodied carcass of the one found on Cuffe Parade on Monday led experts to believe that the mammal collided with a motorable fishing boat.

The exact cause of death of many whales, however, can never be ascertained as the decomposed condition of the carcass makes an autopsy impossible.

This, according to environmentalist and President at Resqink Association for Wildlife and Welfare (RAWW), was also one of the reasons why conservation measures for dolphins remained weak. “We don’t have a standard operating procedure for the rescue or response of these washed-up mammals. It is very crucial to do an immediate autopsy of these marine mammals to find the exact cause of their death, otherwise, the bodies start to decay," Firstpost quoted Pawan Sharma as saying in an earlier interview. Sharma added that the delay and lack of field autopsy teams and veterinary experts often mean minimal investigation into the cause of death of aquatic animals.

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first published:April 30, 2021, 15:44 IST