Severe drought and record-high water temperatures are thought to have contributed to the deaths of over 100 river dolphins in the Brazilian Amazon. The most recent numbers place the count at 150.
According to the Mamirauá Institute, all of the deceased river dolphins have been discovered during the past week in Lake Tefé. The high number of deaths is not typical.
Record high water temperatures, topping 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius), have severely impacted many river species in the region. These temperatures are over ten degrees higher than is average for this season.
Scorching water temperatures in Lake Tefé have been combined with drought conditions throughout the region. Scientists believe that the low water levels have allowed temperatures to reach heights that are not tolerable for the dolphins.
Thousands of fish deaths have also been recorded. Both the fish and dolphins likely died as a result of reduced oxygen in the water. Although river dolphins are mammals and breathe from the water’s surface, high water temperatures can cause the dolphins to become confused.
Lack of oxygen can lead to death by asphyxia. Ongoing drought conditions are predicted to worsen in the coming weeks. This continues to threaten river dolphins and other Amazon river species.
Rescue efforts are underway in hopes of preventing more dolphin deaths. River dolphins will be transported to the main Amazon River waterway. Hopefully, the cooler water will help protect the dolphins. However, researchers must first ascertain that the dolphins were not killed by bacteria or disease.
Of the deceased Amazon river dolphins found in Lake Tefé, roughly 80 percent are pink river dolphins. Both pink river dolphins and gray river dolphins are threatened species, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Amazon river dolphins are one of only a few freshwater dolphin species worldwide.
Record-setting water temperatures and drought are causing concern in the scientific community. It is believed that these are linked to the ongoing effects of Climate change and Global warming.
Weather patterns, such as El Niño, may also be a contributing factor. Deforestation throughout the Amazon rainforest is helping to drive such changes. Climate activists warn that deaths of the river dolphins, which are considered an indicator species, warn of worsening conditions in the region.
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This article by Willow Lynn was first published by One Green Planet on 6 October 2023. Image Credit :COULANGES/Shutterstock.