Forest officials in Tuticorin district received some shocking news on Monday evening when the district administration called to inform them that 30 spotted dolphins had washed ashore near Punnaikayal village. Authorities rushed to the beach and conducted rescue operations through the night. Despite their efforts, however, four of the dolphins died.
The sea animals were spotted by local fishermen around 6 pm on Monday and they immediately informed the fisheries department, who passed the information on to the district officials. The forest department arrived at the site at 8 pm and began efforts to return the dolphins to the sea.
According to forest officials, the dolphins attempted to return despite being carried back to the water. Four of them finally died and their carcasses washed ashore.
â€śThese dolphins are native to the Indian Ocean but we are yet to determine why they washed ashore. Veterinarians are expected to arrive shortly and a post mortem may help understand the reason,â€ť says S Logasundaram, a forest range officer. â€śThe larger problem here, however, is that there is no fixed mechanism or rules on how to deal with such incidents. Scientists will have to give us clear instructions so that we do not cause further damage to these animals,â€ť he adds.
This is not the first time that Tuticorin district has seen marine life washing ashore. In 1974, 70 pilot whales were washed ashore at Manapad and just last year, 83 pilot whales were washed ashore in the same village but were taken back to the sea. But they were found dead on the shore the next day.
â€śDespite these deaths, there has been no clear report about the reason for the death of the whales or what we as forest officials must do to rescue them,â€ť rues the FRO.
Environmentalists who spoke to TNM say that only a post mortem can reveal the reason for the dolphins washing ashore or dying.
â€śThese instances of so many dolphins washing ashore is very rare,â€ť says Rahul Muralidharan, a marine biologist. â€śThe spotted dolphins are a deep sea species and found in water depths of over 50 m. So, only an autopsy can reveal what brought them to shore. We canâ€™t simply speculate,â€ť he adds.