Dolphins Die as Water in Amazon Lake Hits 102 Degrees

Researcher likens disaster to 'a science-fiction climate-change scenario'
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2023 10:10 AM CDT
More Than 100 Dolphins Die in Amazon Drought
A pink boto dolphin swims in the Negro River in the Brazilian Amazon.   (Getty/Paralaxis)

Efforts have begun to save surviving river dolphins after more than 100 of them were found dead in the past week in the Amazon's Lake Tefé. Experts haven't determined the cause of the deaths, but the Mamirauá Institute, which is supported by Brazil's government, said "it is certainly connected" to the ongoing drought and the high temperatures of the lake water, which have reached 102 degrees Fahrenheit, CNN reports. Thousands of fish have died, as well. "The past month in Tefé has seemed like a science-fiction climate-change scenario," said Daniel Tregidgo, a British researcher living in the region.

Researchers and activists are trying to move remaining dolphins, called botos, to the main part of the Amazon River, where the water is cooler, from lagoons and ponds on the edges. That brings complications, an institute researcher said. "Transferring river dolphins to other rivers is not that safe because it's important to verify if toxins or viruses are present" before the animals are placed in the wild, André Coelho said. Disease and sewage contamination could be contributing causes, another researcher said, per the Guardian. "This extraordinary species is already endangered—so losing so many individuals in such a short space of time is disastrous," said Daphne Willems, of the World Wildlife Fund.

The warming climate could mean that in some places, conditions are becoming intolerable for certain species; the Lake Tefé water now is about what a human would consider a hot bath. Parts of Brazil's south in the past few months have flooded during major rainstorms, even as the country's north endures an unusually intense dry season. State officials said the community of Tefé is in an emergency. Waterway are drying up, making transport of supplies slow or impossible, which officials say will increase prices and cause food insecurity in the region, per the Guardian. Local officials are asking the Brazilian government for humanitarian aid. (Read more Amazon river stories.)

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