The death of a dolphin in China that was photographed with beachgoers handling it shortly beforehand has sparked outrage on the country’s social media sites.
Tourists on the South China beach near a resort in Hainan Province reportedly flocked to the stranded dolphin to take pictures, with a group of men lifting the animal out of the water to pose with it. They posted photos to China’s version of Twitter, called Sina Weibo.
According to official Chinese news agency Xinhua, lifeguards arrived to disperse the crowds and protect the dolphin until fisheries officials arrived around 7 p.m. local time to take the mammal for treatment. It died around 11 p.m. local time.
Social media users blamed the dolphin’s death on the handling it received from the tourists, according tonews reports.
It’s hard to say how much, or if, the physical contact with humans contributed to the mammal’s death, said Erin Fourgeres, a marine mammal biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries Service in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Fourgeres said that one of the pictures of the dolphin out of the water showed the animal arching its back, which is a stress response.
“[But] if animals are stranded, there’s generally something wrong with them,” she explained. So the dolphin in China was likely sick or injured to begin with. “With that said,” Fourgeres continued, “we would never advise anyone to go pick up the animal.”
She also emphasized that handling a stranded animal can be dangerous for humans. Dolphins have strong tails and sharp teeth, she said, and “you can get hurt if you don’t handle the animal appropriately.”
Read full story: National Geographic
See also this separate report: