Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Peru's thousands of beached dolphins a mystery

When a retired fisherman called to report that about 1,500 dolphins had washed up on Peru's northern coast, veterinarian Carlos Yaipén's first reaction was, "That's impossible."

But when Yaipén traveled up the coast last week, he counted 615 dead or dying dolphins along an 84-mile stretch of coastline.

Now, the death toll could be as high as 2,800, based on volunteers' counts. Peru's enormous dolphin die-off is among the largest ever reported worldwide. The strandings, which began in January, are a marine mystery that may never be unraveled. Experts say the causes could be acoustic impact from testing for oil, or perhaps an unknown virus or other pathogen. Little marine research takes place in Peru, and even in the United States, of 55 marine mammal strandings since 1991, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has classified 29 as "undetermined."

All of the 20 or so animals Yaipén has examined showed middle-ear hemorrhage and fracture of the ear's periotic bone, lung lesions and bubbles in the blood. To him, that suggests that a major acoustic impact caused injury, but not immediate death. Most of the dolphins apparently were alive when they beached, or had died very recently. Read More