Gadani villagers, picnickers rescue stranded dolphins
Paguma Larvata 08/03/09
GADANI (Balochistan), March 6: People of this sleepy village on the Balochistan coast rescued a large number of dolphins on their beaches on Friday morning, helping the stranded fish return to their original habitat – the sea – by the evening.
Spinner dolphins (Stenella Longirostris), an ‘endangered’ species according to the Sindh Wildlife Department, roam in large groups from Iran to India in the Arabian Sea.
According to marine experts, the stranding of dolphins in such a large number was a rare phenomenon and could have been caused by high tides.
The dolphins had come ashore near a picnic point on the Gadani beach, attracting a large number of visitors from Karachi, who also helped the villagers to return the sea mammals to deeper waters.
Later, they were also joined by a team of the Sindh Wildlife and volunteers of the WWF.
The rescue operation was completed by the evening without any casualty.
Dilmurad Baloch, a 50-yearold fisherman turned watchman, said that he had never seen live dolphins ashore – locally called ‘Ghoko’ and ‘Dhabi’ — although he had occasionally seen dead dolphins wash up on beaches.
He said that as soon as the villagers saw the dolphins and realised that they had been stranded on the beach, they buckled down to inducing them back into the deep.
In a lighter vein, he said that because the dolphins had no commercial value, they had been spared and allowed to return to the sea.
An 18-year-old fisherman Dil Hameed said that he had seen dolphins during fishing trips because they were deep-water creatures.
Sporting long beaks and small sharp saw-like teeth, dolphins are very human friendly and even play with people and chase boats in a genial manner.
Sindh Wildlife conservator Hussain Bakhsh Bhaagat, who had brought the SWD rescue team from Karachi, said that more than 100 dolphins had probably been stranded when high tide receded in the morning.
He agreed that it was a rare occurrence, and stranding of dolphins in such a large number had never been reported in the country.
He said as dolphins had thick skins, which did not dry quickly, they could stay alive on shore without any damage for periods between 10 and 15 hours.
As mammals, he said, they were able to breathe through blow-holes on top of their heads and were not dependent on water for breathing, helping them survive for long periods on dry land.
Mr Bhaagat said that unlike the blind Indus dolphin, the sea dolphins had eyes and a sophisticated sense of direction. “They rarely get caught in fishing nets, but one of the greatest threat to their survival is the increasing level of marine pollution. They are among endangered species.” Babar Hussain, the leader of WWF volunteers, told Dawn that several of the dolphins were very young and the mature ones were between 1.5 metre and 2 metres long and weighed around 50 kilograms. He said that all of the Spinner Dolphins, called ‘Malhar’ along the Sindh coast, had been rescued.
As some of them were unable to return to the sea because of strong waves and sea currents, they were put on boats and released into the deep from where they swam to safety.