Probing from Clues in Mass Deaths of Dolphins Scientists are hoping to figure out why hundreds of bottlenose dolphins recently washed up on a beach in Zanzibar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of eastern Africa. Alex Chadwick talks with Dr. Narriman Jiddawi, a marine biologist at the University of Dar es Salaam, who's involved with the effort.

Probing from Clues in Mass Deaths of Dolphins

Probing from Clues in Mass Deaths of Dolphins

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Scientists are hoping to figure out why hundreds of bottlenose dolphins recently washed up on a beach in Zanzibar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of eastern Africa. Alex Chadwick talks with Dr. Narriman Jiddawi, a marine biologist at the University of Dar es Salaam, who's involved with the effort.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK:

And I'm Alex Chadwick

In east Africa, scientists are still tying to understand why hundreds and hundreds of dolphins washed up dead on the beaches of the island of Zanzibar off Tanzania over this last weekend. The bottlenose dolphins died along a two and a half mile stretch of beach.

Joining us is Dr. Narriman Jiddawi. She's a marine biologist at the Institute of Marine Science that's on Zanzibar. It's connected with the University of Dar es Salaam.

Dr. Jiddawi, describe the scene there for us, would you please?

Dr. NARRIMAR JIDDAWI (Marine Biologist, Institute of Marine Science, University of Dar es Salaam): More than 500 dolphins were stranded in the northern part of Zanzibar. The fisherman saw them swimming at around two to three o'clock, and then in the evening, they heard some strange noises from the village and sounding like splashing, some screaming, and they were surprised what that noise was. And early in the morning, the following day around 4:00, they went down and they saw this mass stranding of common bottlenose dolphins, scientifically known as tursiops truncatus.

CHADWICK: Well, you have been studying these carcasses and taking samples from them. Have you come to any conclusions?

Dr. JIDDAWI: Not yet, they had small skin, they looked healthy.

CHADWICK: What kind of theories do you have? What might cause something like this?

Dr. JIDDAWI: So we have just been reading around and looking at Internet and talking to people and many people tell us different theories. They say that standings are caused by maybe if they are ill or injured. And as I told you, we look at them, they didn't look ill, they look healthy and they didn't have any injuries. And also, they may be caused by maybe bad weather conditions, so we don't know. We are not sure of this, because there was rain that day. Also, seismic sonar, also can, can also cause some disturbances and some people say this can even cause vomiting, and we also found that they didn't have anything in their stomach.

CHADWICK: So when you say seismic sonar, you mean underwater signals that are sent out especially by the U.S. Navy for testing various things and for submarine kinds of things.

Dr. JIDDAWI: Yeah, could be, but we are not sure if it is the U.S. Navy, but it could be anything, even an earthquake, you know the (unintelligible) could be caused even by, I think, earthquakes.

CHADWICK: So the fisherman who came down and who saw all this and who told you about it, what do they think?

Dr. JIDDAWI: They've never seen something like this before, and it was something new, but I'll tell you, they were a little bit happy because they took the liver of all the dolphins--almost all--and they are using this to make something locally known as sifa(ph) an (unintelligible) material which they use for boat repair.

CHADWICK: You're saying they can make some kind of, something like paint to put on the bottom of the boat, and that will keep the bottom of the boat clear from weeds and moss and things that grow on it?

Dr. JIDDAWI: Yes. Yes. Yes. Usually they use shark, and, you know, shark liver, but they had these, all these animals there, so they took all this liver--for like three days, they were dissecting and taking out the liver.

CHADWICK: Dr. Narriman Jiddawi, a marine biologist at the University of Dar es Salaam, speaking to us from the island of Zanzibar, the site of a huge dolphin stranding over this last weekend.

Dr. Jiddawi, thank you.

Dr. JIDDAWI: Thank you.

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