Gerd Traue was on the right beach at the right time to capture an extraordinary sight. She was visiting Arraial do Cabo, Brazil, a small beach town 170 km east of Rio de Janeiro, when 30 dolphins swam right up onto the beach. She caught the whole incident on video.
Stranded on the sand, the dolphins were unable to swim back into the sea. Within seconds people raced down the beach to pull them back into the water. Hauling a heavy, slippery marine mammal back into the sea is difficult, but every dolphin was saved, thanks to beach goers’ quick action.
There have been other incidents of dolphin stranding in recent years. A month earlier, in February 2012, over 100 were stranded on the shores of Cape Code, Massachusetts. Kristina Chew wrote that at least 80 of them were found dead or died shortly after being found.
In the period between February 2010 and April 2012, 714 dolphins and other cetaceans washed up on the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico, 95 percent of them dead. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration speculates bacteria may have caused many of the deaths, but Chew points out the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have been even more responsible for the shockingly high numbers of deaths.
Katie Moore, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Manager of Marine Mammal Rescue says the dolphins’ sociability can be their undoing. When they swim into shallow water, “the bond becomes a liability…and that may be why they mass strand.”
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society suggests a number of other factors that can cause dolphins and whales to swim onto beaches, including hunting, disease, chemical spills and interactions with naval or fisheries ships.
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Photo clip from video by Gerd Traue