Just before the weekend, a Franciscan dolphin (listed as vulnerable by the IUCN) was killed on a beach in Argentina after being picked up off the ground and passed around for photos with a bunch of tourists hoping to show off on social media. While it’s unclear what caused this individual dolphin to wash up onshore, it’s a pretty common fact that marine mammals such as this dolphin need to stay hydrated in order to remain alive. Instead, these children, young adults, and older beachgoers isolated the dolphin from its natural habitat by passing it around and taking photos with it until the poor animal died of dehydration.
Now, the dolphin may very well have been deathly ill prior to its deadly photo-ops. Dolphins beach for a variety of reasons, and its unclear whether this individual was sick, confused, or distracted. However, these tourists never gave the dolphin the opportunity to get back into the water, nor did they alert the proper authorities that a small, rare species had washed up onshore. There are numerous marine mammal stranding agencies throughout the world, who are staffed with folks who are trained solely for this purpose. They can often help get the animal safely back into its habitat, or at the very least determine the cause of death for a stranded marine mammal.
While determining a COD may seem like a moot point to some, it’s vitally important for the health of the surrounding community. If this dolphin was suffering from a viral or bacterial infection, it’s possible that anyone who has come into physical contact with the animal may have contracted the illness as well. This is why you don’t normally see people passing around roadkill like their playing hot potato; it’s just not safe or healthy. So please, next time you go to the beach keep an eye out for injured or sick animals. Keep the contact information for local stranding networks handy so that you and your group can respond effectively in case of a similar situation.
Enjoy the Podcast!