TEHRAN, Oct 29 (AFP) Oct 29, 2007
At the end of September, 79 Striped Dolphins were found washed up off the southern port of Jask in southern Iran, and last week another 73 dolphins were found dead in the same area.
Pictures of rows of dolphin corpses in the sand have been widely featured in Iranian newspapers, which said the dolphins had "committed suicide" -- behaviour the animals have exhibited on occasion in the wild.
"The suicide of dolphins on Jask's coast continues," the governmental Iran newspaper wrote on Saturday. "Locals tried to put the animals back in the water but they refused to return."
The scale of concern over the deaths of the highly intelligent mammals has prompted Iran's environmental protection authorities to show a dead dolphin corpse to the press on Monday to explain the "suicides."
Mohammad Baqer Nabavi, deputy head of Iran's environmental protection organisation in charge of marine biology, said the most likely explanation was that the dolphins drowned after becoming entangled in fishing nets rather than because of pollution.
But he also emphasized that the mystery had still not been solved.
"We did not spot pollution in the tissue of the dead dolphins a month ago," he told reporters.
"We are basing our hypothesis for the suicide on fishing -- either nets left at the bottom of the Persian Gulf or the big fishing nets that ships spread to catch different kinds of fish," Nabavi added.
"As you know, though, they are marine animals but they need to come up to surface and breathe."
A Striped Dolphin, normally found in temperate and tropical waters of the world's oceans, was frozen and shipped in from southern Iran for display and showed traces of bruising and cuts.
"We did not spot any kind of pollution in their digestive system that could have been caused from eating poisoned fish, and we also have not spotted any viruses or parasites," he added.