Featured Image Credit: ABC News
By Laura O’Brien
An alarming amount of gray dolphins have died off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state in Brazil. In only 17 days, over 80 dolphins were found dead. Over 130 dead dolphins were found just in the Bay of Sepetiba since this November. The combined total of deaths so far is equal to about 20 percent of the area’s known population of dolphins, and why it is happening remains a mystery.
A virus outbreak appears to be killing the dolphins, but conservationists are still perplexed by the mortalities themselves. The previously known virus that has been found in the dolphins is morbillivirus. Scientists do not understand what has caused such an extreme outbreak of a previously existing virus. The most disturbing news on this deadly outbreak is that scientists have no idea when it will end.
Although gray dolphins are classified as data deficient, the chief coordinator of Boto Cinza Institute, Leonardo Flach, said that the animals should be classified as endangered. The small population of dolphins is particularly susceptible to the virus, because it is spread through both inhalation and contact, and gray dolphins live in large pods with close contact with one another.
Dolphin hunting and pollution are major issues in the area where the outbreak is occurring, but previous efforts to conserve the species met opposition. With the outbreak of cetacean morbillivirus, serious concerns have been raised about the species’ survival. Flach said, “now this unknown disease, we hope to be able to put more pressure on the officials to help us to save the dolphins”.
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