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Scientists studying the Black Sea claim “several thousand” dolphins have died in the region during the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, sparking concerns about the effect of the war on marine ecosystems in the region.
Ivan Rusev, research director at Ukraine’s Tuzla Estuaries National Nature Park, said in a Facebook post that the marine mammals were washing up on the coastline of the Black Sea bordering several countries, including Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania.
Pictures shared by Dr Rusev showed dolphins washed up ashore with what he claims are war-related injuries, including burn marks from bombs.
He said the marine mammals are continuing to wash up on the coastlines with burns from bombs and landmines, as well as internal injuries, and also show signs of starvation.
“I emphasise once again that there have been serious casualties of the war among dolphins in the Black Sea in recent weeks,” Dr Rusev noted.
Based on data collected by his team as well as other researchers across Europe, he said “several thousand” dolphins have already died amid the war in Ukraine.
“Analysis of available data collected by us during three months of the war on the coast of our national park, as well as on the materials of fresh open publications from Ukraine, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and based on the personal messages of my foreign friends and colleagues, we assume that due to the cruel and insane war of racists in the Black Sea, from the beginning of the war until now, several thousand dolphins have already died,” Dr Rusev said.
“Barbarians kill not only civilised people but smart dolphins,” he added.
Last year, an international team of more than 100 scientists estimated that there could be about a quarter of a million dolphins in the Black Sea, but it is unknown how many of these remain in the region now.
The Turkish marine research foundation had also raised an alarm about the effects of the war on marine ecosystems in the area.
“Due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, biodiversity, marine, food and environmental security are under threat in the Black Sea,” it said in a statement in April.
“In addition to marine pollution, it is also known that intense ship noise and low-frequency sonars are a serious threat to marine species, especially dolphins using sound-activated ways,” the research foundation had warned, adding that oil and gas leaks from sunken military ships could also aggravate damages to the ecosystem.