When residents of Shivaji Park saw a dead hump-backed dolphin washed on the beach shore, they didn’t know how to react. While some felt sad, a few others wondered where it came from and how it was murdered.

Rubbishing claims of the dolphin hitting itself with the newly-built pillars of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, Anish Andheria, Director of Science and Natural History with Sanctuary Asia explains that the marine mammal has a very sharp sense of hearing and navigates with the help of sonic waves. “Dolphins die due to reasons ranging from climate change, fishing to old age. It would be difficult to find the cause of death without an autopsy,” he said.

The instance of a dolphin being washed away on the shore sounds strange for scuba diver BF Chhapgar. “They are intelligent, fast-swimming animals,” he says, narrating instances of whales being stranded on the beach. His experience with the Indian Fisheries department, reminded him about how in the 1950’s the mammals were killed ruthlessly by fisher folk. “Dolphins are enemies of the fishing community because they tear their nets. At that time, the government gave away Rs5 awards for every dolphin tail that was cut.”

It’s the best season to fish and with thousands of fishing trawlers setting sail everyday, experts pointed at the chances of the mammal being hit by a propeller. “It’s hearing sense could have got disoriented because of the loud sounds coming from the trawler,” explains Andheria.

Last year, when marine activist Jayasimha found a dolphin on Versova beach, he along with his deep-sea diver friend hired a motorboat to take it back into the sea. “Mumbai is apathetic towards fish life. No one really cares about the dolphin,” he says.

Ask him how the mammal could have died and he blames the excessive dependency of man on the oceans. “Dolphins look for schools of fish to eat. Due to excessive fishing, the reserves have depleted, forcing them to come to shallow water,” he says. 

Although they are a rare sight, the Arabian Sea has a large dolphin population. Their fast-swimming nature makes it difficult to spot them. These mammals often come close to waters around Mumbai. In the past, fishermen have spotted them in the sea near the Gateway of India. Regarded as one of the most intelligent animals, dolphins have acute eyesight with a sense of hearing superior to humans.

While dolphin conservation in Mumbai is unheard of even scientists from the Central Institute of Fishery Education at Versova weren’t able to give details about the origins of the dolphins. A senior scientist said that most marine research carried out in Mumbai was focused on commercial fish that could be consumed, leaving the dolphins outside the bracket of study.

A very human expression
A very human expression

 

Some background about the dolphin found:

Species: Indo-Pacific Hump-Backed Dolphin

Habitat: Lives close to the shore and near the mouth of rivers. Found along the coast of south-east Asia up to northern Australia.

Food: Fish, squid and octopus

Nature: Group-loving

Body type: Robust, slender built, fin on a hump. Females grow upto 8 ft while males can grow upto 9ft. A full grown female weighs 170kg while a male weighs 260kgs.

Life span: Can grown till 40 years.

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