More than 100 dolphins have tragically perished in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest within the past week, and experts fear that many more will suffer a similar fate if water temperatures continue to rise. The Mamiraua Institute, a prominent research group under Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation, discovered two more lifeless dolphins on Monday in the vicinity of Tefe Lake, a vital habitat for mammals and fish in the area. Heartbreaking footage provided by the institute depicted vultures scavenging on the dolphins’ carcasses strewn along the lakeside. Additionally, local media has reported the loss of thousands of fish.
Elevated water temperatures are strongly suspected to be the primary culprit behind these devastating deaths. In the Tefe Lake region alone, temperatures have soared above 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) since last week. Concerned by the situation, the Brazilian government’s Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, responsible for managing conservation areas, dispatched teams comprising veterinarians and aquatic mammal specialists to investigate these distressing occurrences.
Miriam Marmontel, a researcher from the Mamiraua Institute, revealed that Tefe Lake was once home to approximately 1,400 river dolphins.
Impact of Drought on Dolphin Population in the Amazon
The devastating effects of drought are becoming alarmingly evident in the Amazon region, as hundreds of dolphins have fallen victim to the harsh conditions. According to Marmontel, an estimated 120 dolphins – accounting for up to 10% of the population – have perished within a week. The dire situation has prompted Amazonas Gov. Wilson Lima to declare a state of emergency.
The dry rivers resulting from the drought have severely impacted the impoverished communities that rely on them. In Tefe, a city with a population of 60,000, the mayor, Nicson Marreira, expressed his government’s inability to provide food to isolated communities due to the dry riverbeds. The rivers, which are the main source of transportation for these communities, have now become inaccessible.
Ayan Fleischmann, the Geospatial coordinator at the Mamirauá Institute, emphasized the dire consequences faced by riverside communities. As many areas become isolated, access to clean water and transportation has significantly diminished. A worrying trend has also emerged with rising water temperatures. Over the weekend, temperatures soared from 32°C (89°F) on Friday to nearly 38°C (100°F) on Sunday.
While experts continue to investigate the cause of dolphin deaths, preliminary findings point to the overwhelming influence of high temperatures. As the suffering intensifies for both the dolphins and the communities reliant on the rivers, urgent action is needed to address this environmental crisis in the Amazon region.