Peru: Steer Clear of Beach Til We Solve Animal Mystery

Government claims virus, starvation likely causes of dolphin, bird deaths
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2012 11:57 AM CDT
Peru: Steer Clear of Beach Til We Solve Animal Mystery
In this April 6, 2012 photo, officials stand next to dolphin carcasses on the shore of Pimentel Beach in Chiclayo, Peru.   (AP Photo/Nestor Salvatierra)

Peru insists that the hundreds of dead dolphins that have washed up on its coast are not related to the hundreds of dead seabirds that also recently began turning up. But no definitive cause has yet been released, three months after the government started testing the dolphins, and some are beginning to wonder if officials are hiding something. Authorities have suggested a virus may be to blame for the at least 877 dolphin deaths since February, and starvation may be behind the more than 1,500 bird deaths in the same time frame, but some scientists think offshore oil exploration, biotoxins, or pesticides could be contributing.

“Never in my 40 years as a fisherman have I seen anything like this,” says one local. Even more alarming: Despite claiming it has ruled out any connection to biotoxins, bacteria, heavy metals, or pesticides, the government has also warned people away from the waters around Lima and northward until the cause of the mass die-offs has been determined. The Health Ministry also warned people not to eat raw seafood and to wear gloves and masks if handling the remains of marine animals. See the New York Times for more. (Read more mysterious animal deaths stories.)

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