'Hundreds' of dolphins stranded off Philippines

10th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

More than 200 dolphins were found in shallow waters near Manila after beaching themselves.

BALANGA – Scores of fisherman and volunteers managed to guide more than 200 dolphins into deep water after they beached themselves in Manila Bay, officials in the Philippines said Tuesday.

Residents in the seaside towns of Pilar and Abucay on the Bataan peninsula west of Manila raised the alarm early Tuesday when they saw a large school of dolphins in shallow water.

Three of the dolphins were found dead and authorities feared others would die unless they could guide them into deeper water.

"This is an unusual phenomenon," Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Malcolm Sarmiento told local radio, estimating the number of dolphins at "more than 200".

He said they could be reacting to a "heat wave or disturbance at sea" such as a possible major underwater earthquake.

Dolphins, which are mammals, have ears that are sensitive to large changes in pressure underwater, he said.

"If their eardrums are damaged, they become disorientated and they float up to the surface," he added.

He said smaller schools of dolphins numbering "in the tens and twenties" had beached themselves elsewhere in the Philippines previously, but this was the first time so many had done so at the same time and place.

Authorities said they had managed to guide most of the dolphins back into deeper water and away from the shore.

Provincial veterinarian Alberto Venturina said samples had been taken from two of the dead dolphins, which had shown they were both female and that one of them was pregnant.

He said he could not say why they beached themselves although he noted that they both had water in their lungs, indicating that they had drowned. The pregnant dolphin had been found with its tail tangled in a fishing net, Venturina added.

"It's possible that they got lost. They came from the north and were headed towards the South China Sea," he said.

The two animals were identified as melon-headed dolphins, weighing about 250 to 300 kilogrammes (1,210 to 1,452 pounds), said Venturina.

The third dolphin was only a month old and measured barely a metre (yard) long. Its gender had not yet been determined.

[AFP / Expatica]

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