'Heartwrenching': at least 40 dolphins dead near Mauritius oil spill

A boy touches the carcass of a melon-headed whale at a beach in Grand Sable Mauritius on Aug 26 2020

A boy touches the carcass of a melon-headed whale at a beach in Grand Sable Mauritius on Aug 26 2020

The Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef near the eastern coast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean on July 25.

At least 40 dolphins have mysteriously died in an area of Mauritius affected by an oil spill from a Japanese boat, officials and witnesses said on Friday, as a witness described the moment one mother dolphin died in front of him.

An estimated 1,000 tonnes of fuel spilled into the area.

Thousands of civilian volunteers worked for days to try to minimize the damage, creating makeshift oil barriers by stuffing fabric bags with sugar cane leaves and empty plastic bottles to keep them afloat.

"The ones that survived, around ten, seemed very tired and could barely swim".

"The dead dolphins had several wounds and blood around their jaws, no trace of oil however", Jasvin Sok Appadu from the fisheries ministry said.

"I have seen around eight to 10 dead dolphins".

The mother dolphin did not float like the other deceased dolphins, but instead sank - suggesting more marine life could have died from the oil spill.

Malta has 330,000 doses of prospective COVID vaccine allocated
Meanwhile in India, there are two domestic companies- Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila that have developed vaccine candidates. Maleque said Sinovac attached Bangladesh as a top priority country to conduct the trial.

Local environmental group Eco-Sud called for the full autopsy results to be released publicly, and worldwide environmental pressure group Greenpeace called on the government of Mauritius to launch an inquiry to determine whether the deaths of the mammals were linked to the oil spill.

The autopsy on the first two was conducted by the government-run Albion Fisheries Research Centre.

Local environmental group Eco-Sud, which took part in Saturday's protest, said in a statement on Friday that representatives from civil society should be present during the autopsies and called for a second opinion from independent specialists.

The wildlife at risk include the critically endangered Pink Pigeon, endemic to the island, the seagrasses, clownfish and mangrove forests, whose roots serve as nurseries for fish.

"We do not trust the government and the diluted information they've been feeding us regarding the management and responses to the oil spill", Fabiola Monty, 33 a Mauritian environmental scientist, told from the square.

Another damning fact linking the deaths to the oil spill is that the carcasses smelled of fuel, according to oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo.

The ship was travelling on a well-known route when it changed course and ended up hitting the reef.

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