Amazon river dolphins die in mass due to drought and heat

Animal News : Amazon river dolphins die in mass due to drought and heat
Researchers retrieve dead dolphins from Lake Tefe, which flows into the Solimoes river, that has been affected by the high temperatures and drought in Tefe, Amazonas state, Brazil, October 2, 2023, credit: Reuters/Bruno Kelly

The bodies of 120 river dolphins have been found floating in part of the Amazon River since last week. Experts suspect that the dolphin deaths were caused by severe drought and heat.

“So far, we have had a minimum count of 120 carcasses, including pink dolphins and tucuxis, with the majority, around 80%, being pink dolphins,” Miriam Marmontel from the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development (IDSM) in Brazil said.

“If these mortality rates continue to increase, we will enter a very critical situation, considering that both species (pink dolphins and tucuxis) are threatened with extinction,” she added. The Amazon river dolphins, many with a striking pink color, are unique freshwater species found only in the rivers of South America.

Researchers said that low river levels during a severe drought have heated water in parts of the river to temperatures that are too hot for the dolphins.

“We have conducted a series of analyses and environmental monitoring campaigns in Lake Tefe. The water temperature was very high on the day of the death (September 28, when 70 carcasses appeared) in certain moments, exceeding 39 degrees Celsius, an extremely high value above the average.” researcher Ayan Fleischmann said.

“The average here in our region in Lake Tefe is between 29 and 31 degrees Celsius. For this time of the year, it’s an extremely high value and is certainly related to the deaths,” Fleischmann added. Thousands of fish have also died recently in Amazon rivers due to a lack of oxygen in the water.

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