Friday, October 14, 2005

Carcass of dolphin washed ashore in India

It is not heartening when your doctor tells you have cholesterol and that you need regular walks. Brisk walks sometimes can be cumbersome and boaring. To break the monotony of my evening walk, I chose the lonely beach along the Sharjah shores. The light was fast fading away. Everything looked calm, save the small hush of the waves. Suddenly my eyes fell on what looked unusual.

A heavy mass dumped in the water caught my attention. Upon a closer look, it was evident I had bumped into a dolphin just washed ashore. The eyes were open and looked alive and its rubbery body still felt fresh. Apparently the dolphin might have just died and the body just washed ashore. It would measure anywhere close to 2 meters from snout to tail.

In the UAE, some dolphins have been measured to be a little under 3m in length. The Bottlenose Dolphin ( Tursiops truncatus) is one of the commonest cetaceans in the UAE and the species most likely to be seen close to cities such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah. They feed over deep water, and over sand, seagrass and reefs in shallow water.

Those that live close inshore are relatively placid, not displaying the acrobatic energy of their slightly larger counterparts further out to sea. But most bottlenose dolphins are fast, powerful swimmers and often show great acrobatic skills. Even from a fair distance, one may notice as its species name denotes, it has a long slender beak. It is smaller (up to 2 m) and has a white belly and a grey flank band, and during its leaps it spins around its longitudinal axis and somersaults in spectacular displays.

Much of what we know about the local species of cetaceans was based initially on observations made by members of the Natural History Group of Abu Dhabi in the late 1970's and early 1980's. According to proper research conducted by Robert Baldwin, the dolphins are insulated from the cold water by a fat layer of blubber, by which they maintain their body temperature at around 38º C. The female gives birth to one live young that is born tail first. The newborn dolphin must immediately rise to the surface for its first breath of air.

Not being an expert on marine life and particularly about dolphins, it is hard to say which species of dolphin I stumbled upon on the Sharjah beach. But the description suggests that it could be a bottlenose dolphin.

It is very difficult to determine the cause of this dolphin’s death. But many of the dolphins are endangered animals. Threats to their existence include fishing with nets (especially dangerous for those species that prefer to live in shallow, onshore waters), pollution from oil, and general litter, noise pollution, and coastal development and human recreation.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"