April 28, 2006

Hundreds of dead dolphins wash ashore in Zanzibar

ZANZIBAR (Reuters) - At least 300 dead dolphins washed ashore on a beach in Zanzibar overnight, residents said on Friday, but the cause of the deaths was unknown.

An official with the Zanzibar Fisheries Department and Marine Products, Sihaba Haji, said the islands had not witnessed the death of such a large number of dolphins.

"I can confirm the deaths of dolphins but we need time to research to establish the cause of the deaths," he said.

A resident said the dead dolphins were on a stretch of beach called Kendwa and Mkokotoni, in the north of Zanzibar that is populated by several tourist hotels.

Another resident said he first saw the dolphins on Thursday.

"We started noticing them last night. All are adult dolphins. We could do nothing but photograph them," said a hotel owner who preferred not to be named.

Nariman Jidawi, a researcher at Zanzibar-based Institute of Marine Science at the University of Dar es Salaam, cited several possible reasons that could have led to the dolphins dying.

"We suspect oil pollution, eating red seaweed or simply being left behind when the tide recedes," Jidawi said.

She said the dead dolphins were Indian Ocean Bottlenose. The Indian Ocean is a migratory path and home for several species, including the Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphin.

A Reuters witness said Zanzibar residents were seen taking dolphin meat home.

But Haji warned residents against eating the dolphins, since the cause of their deaths was unknown.

Visitors to the Indian Ocean Island often enjoy dolphin tours and scuba diving.