A young dolphin was ripped from the sea and left for dead by a mob of tourists who wanted to touch it and take pictures, an Argentinian environmentalist group says.
A YouTube video shows beachgoers at the resort of Santa Teresita, near Buenos Aires, discovering the dolphin in the surf before picking it up and carrying it on to the beach.
A later photo shows the dolphin lying dead on the beach. The environmentalist group Vida Silvestre says it was in fact killed.
The Argentinian newspaper Clarin says it isn’t clear if the dolphin was already dead when it was discovered, but one witness said it was alive.
“One man tried to revive the dolphin, but its wounds were serious,” Ayelén Rodriguez, wrote on Facebook, Clarin reported.
“It was just a baby, an incredible animal that had the misfortune of running into the worst kind of mammals — humans,” she said, adding that she told people to stop touching the dolphin and return it to the sea, but they would not listen.
The Mundo Marino Foundation said it sent a team to the beach to find the dolphin’s carcass, but it was already gone when they arrived.
They, too, weren’t sure if the dolphin was dead or alive when it was found by the tourists, but said the beachgoers should have left it be either way and called the authorities.
“Keep in mind that most animals that are stranded have some kind of condition, so contact with them poses a risk to health. It is not advisable to perform except the people who are trained for it,” the foundation said in a statement. It added that the carcass could have helped inform them of what happened and preserve the species.
The animal, a young Franciscana dolphin, typically lives for 20 years off the coasts of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. There are less than 30,000 of them on the planet, and they are considered a vulnerable species facing the threat of extinction. Thousands of them die in fishing nets every year, and Mundo Marino says they could be gone in 30 years.
Like most sea animals, the Franciscana dolphin needs to stay in the water to survive.
“The Franciscan, like other dolphins, can not long remain above water. It has a very thick and greasy skin that provides warmth, so weather quickly causes dehydration and death,” the environmentalist group Vida Silvestre says on its website.
The group says this incident, while tragic, may serve as a reminder to the public “to return to these dolphins to sea” if found. “It is vital that people help to rescue these animals,” it says.
In related news, an otter died after two zoo employees decided to put pants on the animal. It drowned under the weight of the “unauthorized employment item.”