Conflicts & War

Thousands of Black Sea dolphins dead as war in Ukraine rages

By Rostyslav Averchuk

Lviv, Ukraine, Jul 10 (EFE).- Thousands of dolphins in the Black Sea have died due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, biologist Ivan Rusev has said.

Rusev, the head of research at Tuzlivski lymany National Nature Park in the Ukrainian city of Odesa, estimates that at least 3,000 dolphins have died since the war in Ukraine began on February 24.

“When the war ends, it will be necessary to create a large marine reserve to help the dwindling population of dolphins recover quickly,” he tells Efe.

For more than four months, Russian bombs and missiles have hit targets across Ukraine, including southern coastal areas, with as many as two hundred explosions counted on some nights.

“The lagoons and the coast were full of life,” Rusev says.

“In the air, there was the melody of wildlife and visitors could see unusual animals from marked trails. Now everything is sad. There are only many craters left by Russian bombs and thousands of its fragments that have brought death,” he adds.

With a downsized team because six of his associates have enlisted in the army, Rusev has been documenting the dolphin deaths and gathering evidence for a future lawsuit against Russia.

“We can only access a small part of the park but the scale of the tragedy is clear,” he points out.

“We never saw anything like it. Normally we would find one or two dead dolphins around this same time. We have already found 28. And only about 5% of the dead animals end up on the shore,” he continues.

The biologist blames the dolphins’ death on the war but “the Russians say that dolphins die from ending up in fishing nets or from disease.

“But it takes something more for a population that is normally healthy and strong to suffer such losses.”

Rusev explains that all the dolphins they found did not have the cuts that prove they were caught in nets and thrown back into the sea by fishermen.

He believes that the powerful sonars of Russian submarines and ships in the area interfere with the dolphins’ own sensitive echolocation abilities. There are also loud explosions, especially near Snake Island, which was recently retaken by Ukraine.

“With their sensory organs damaged, the animals go blind. The disoriented dolphins cannot find food and quickly become exhausted. They starve or succumb more easily to disease,” Rusev says.

“They also hit rocks or mines and end up in Turkish fishing nets,” he adds.

With the conflict raging, birds also flee due to the constant bombs and the fires they cause, meaning they cannot build their nests or procreate.

However, the situation at Tuzlivski lymany may be much healthier than in other reserves along the Ukrainian coast of the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, which are occupied by Russian troops.

Rusev, who says giving up is not in his vocabulary, believes in Ukraine’s ultimate victory and in restoring the park’s habitat.

The biologist has been in the field of ecosystem protection since 1987 when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union and helped protect the park from illegal farming and fishing.

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