Pacific Mystery: What’s Killing the Dolphins and the Pelicans?

Posted on May 15, 2012

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Just what is killing all the dolphins? And the pelicans? And what has chased all the fish away?

It’s been a mystery for months on the Pacific coast of Peru, where the local government says it has found 900 dolphin carcasses and something like 4,500 pelicans. It’s been bad enough that the country’s health ministry ordered 1,500 miles of beaches closed.

And while it may all seem very far away from the United States, scientists from around the world have been watching. People in the area say the government has been slow to take up the bodies, and slower to solve the puzzle.

Which leaves a lot of room for finger-pointing. Every group has its own explanation for the animal deaths:

The government has said the dolphins died of disease: “The most probable hypothesis is the possibility of an infection with a virus,” Deputy Environment Minister Gabriel Quijandria told The Associated Press.

Environmental groups say dolphins’ inner ears were literally fractured by seismic blasts set off by U.S. oil prospectors: “The ears were soaked in blood. That’s not normal when you examine a bone,” said Dr. Carlos Yaipen-Llanos, president of the activist group Orca.

Other scientists wondered about agricultural runoff or heavy metals from mining near rivers, though the Peruvian Sea Institute said it did not find unusual chemical concentrations in animals it autopsied.

ABC News

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