Subject: Dolphins:90 Dolphins Die on Venezuelan (fwd)

Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Thu, 8 Jan 1998 10:22:41 -0500 (EST)

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu,  8 Jan 98 13:06:00 GMT 
From: r.mallon1@genie.geis.com
To: marmam@uvvm.uvic.ca, pita@whale.simmons.edu
Subject: 90 Dolphins Die on Venezuelan

90 Dolphins Die on Venezuelan Beach

By STEVEN GUTKIN
 Associated Press Writer
   CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Up to 100 dolphins died inexplicably
this week after swimming ashore on an island off Venezuela -- a mass
beaching that experts called one of the biggest ever.
   By the time Coast Guard agents arrived at Turtle Island, 70
dolphins lay dead Monday on a hot, white sand beach 100 miles
northeast of Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. Another 20 corpses
were found floating after waves washed them back to sea.
   The beached animals were Atlantic spotted dolphins, noted for
their dark gray skin covered in white spots and an ability to swim
fast and make spectacular leaps. Like all dolphins, they are social
animals and are not shy around humans.
   Fishermen and foreign tourists tried to rescue some of the
dolphins, dragging them one by one into the water. But some
insistently swam back to shore to die.
   "These beachings occur continually in various parts of the
world. Scientifically, the 'why' of these phenomena is unknown.
What is certain is that these dolphins, in a suicidal attitude,
head for the coast to die," the Environment Ministry said Tuesday,
giving the estimate of 90 to 100 dead.
   Eighty percent of the dead dolphins were female, the El
Universal newspaper reported.
   The dolphins may have been following a disoriented leader or
trying to aid a stranded group member when the tide shifted,
Environment Minister Rafael Martinez told a news conference.
   The private Foundation for the Defense of Nature, meanwhile,
said parasites or diseases may have impaired the dolphins' ability
to navigate.
   "When they're exposed to the sun, their skin starts to burn,
and they die from overheating," spokesman Juan Ignacio Cortinas
said, adding that Monday's beaching was the largest ever reported
in Venezuela and among the largest anywhere.
   Officials said there was no evidence of contaminated waters in
the area, despite the presence of a petrochemical plant 60 miles
away.
   Nearly half of all dolphin species can be found in Venezuelan
waters.