May 2, 2006

Zanzibar sends dead dolphin samples to Sweden

ZANZIBAR -- Zanzibar has sent to Sweden samples from more than 600 dolphins that mysteriously died off the Indian Ocean archipelago, a researcher said on Tuesday.

The phenomenon has created a stir among marine experts, with varying theories that the Indian Ocean Bottlenose dolphins may have been hurt by oil pollution, poisonous seaweed, sonar from submarines, or simply a fast-receding tide.

Nariman Jidawi, senior researcher at the Zanzibar-based Institute of Marine Science of the University of Dar es Salaam, said the number of dolphins washed ashore late last week had now been counted at between 600 and 700.

When the carcasses appeared last week on the main island of Zanzibar, locals swarmed round to cut meat from the dolphins, while tourists took photos of the grisly event.

"We collected samples of the dead dolphins and submitted them to Sweden to establish the cause of the massive deaths of the dolphins," said Jidawi, adding that results from the samples would be available in two weeks.

The samples were taken from the lungs and ears of 64 of the dolphins. She could not say which laboratory in Sweden would analyze the dolphin parts.

Most of the dead dolphins had now been buried on the shores near Kendwa and Mkokotoni villages, she added.

Spotting and swimming with dolphins is a popular tourist attraction on the Zanzibar islands, which lie just off mainland Tanzania in east Africa.