More than 100 dolphins found dead in Amazon as water temperatures soar

Thousands of dead fish awash on the banks of Piranha Lake due to a severe drought in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. Credit: AP

More than 100 dolphins have died in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest in the past week as the region grapples with a severe drought, and many more could die soon if water temperatures remain high, experts say.

The Mamiraua Institute - a research group of Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation - described seeing vultures picking at the dolphin carcasses beached on the Tefe Lake.

There had been some 1,400 river dolphins in the water, said Miriam Marmontel, a researcher from the Mamiraua Institute.

“In one week we have already lost around 120 animals between the two of them, which could represent 5% to 10% of the population,” said Marmontel.

Experts believe high water temperatures are the most likely cause of the deaths of the dolphins and thousands of fish in the lakes in the region.

The mercury soared to 39 degrees Celsius in the Tefe Lake region last week.

The Brazilian government’s Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, which manages conservation areas, said last week it had sent teams of veterinarians and aquatic mammal experts to investigate the deaths.

Workers have recovered carcasses of dolphins since last week in a region where dry rivers have impacted impoverished riverside communities and stuck their boats in the sand.

Amazonas Governor Wilson Lima has declared a state of emergency due to the drought.

Nicson Marreira, mayor of Tefe - a city of 60,000 residents - said his government was unable to deliver food directly to some isolated communities because the rivers are dry.

Ayan Fleischmann, the Geospatial coordinator at the Mamirauá Institute, said the drought has had a major impact on the riverside communities in the Amazon region.

“Many communities are becoming isolated, without access to good quality water, without access to the river, which is their main means of transportation,” he said.

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