Submarine sonar suspected in mystery death of 400 dolphins

By Ali Sultan
April 30, 2006

HUNDREDS of dead dolphins have been washed up along the shore of a popular tourist destination on Zanzibar's northern coast, and scientists have ruled out poisoning.

It was not immediately clear what killed the 400 dolphins, whose carcasses were strewn along a four-kilometre stretch of Nungwi, said Narriman Jidawi, a marine biologist at the Institute of Marine Science in Zanzibar.

The public were warned against eating the dolphins' meat.

The bottleneck dolphins, which live in deep offshore waters, had empty stomachs, meaning they could have been disoriented and were swimming for some time to reoriente themselves. They did not starve to death and were not poisoned, Mr Jidawi said.

In the United States, experts were investigating the possibility that sonar from US submarines could have been responsible for a similar incident in Marathon, Florida, where 68 deep-water dolphins stranded themselves in March last year.

A US Navy taskforce patrols the East Africa coast as part of counter-terrorism operations.

The deaths are a blow to tourism in Zanzibar, where thousands of visitors go to watch and swim with dolphins.

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