AN estimated 25 dead dolphins have washed up on the coast of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
It comes after a Japanese ship ran aground last month and spilled more than 1,000 tons of fuel, environmental groups and experts said Wednesday.
The environmental disaster is so big it can be seen from space, shocking pictures show.
Snaps from the scene show the poor dolphins bodies, slick with oil, with black gunge oozing from their mouths and coating their teeth.
Bernard Aliphon, a diving instructor from the area said he was “heartbroken” after coming across the dolphins.
He said: “I know those dolphins, I swim with dolphins every day. It’s heartbreaking seeing them like this. It’s like deaths in the family.”
Other dolphins stranded on shore appeared seriously ill, environmental consultant Sunil Dowarkasing said.
Mr Dowarkasing saidL “This is a terrible day. We are seeing these dolphins swim up to the shore in distress and then die, said Dowarkasing, a former member of parliament.
“We have never seen deaths of these very intelligent marine mammals like this. Never.
“More dolphins may have died out at sea and tests will be done to determine the cause of death of those found on shore.”
Dowarkasing theorised the creatures were either killed by the toxic oil seepage or chemicals in the bow of the sunken ship, which polluted Mauritius’ pristine waters.
The Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef near the eastern coast of Mauritius on July 25.
Pounded by the surf for days, the ship’s hull cracked and on August 6 it began leaking fuel into the waters of the Mahebourg Lagoon, fouling a protected wetlands area, mangroves and a small island that was a bird and wildlife sanctuary.
The ship later broke in two and the bow, the smaller of the two pieces, was towed out to sea and sunk.
The ship’s captain and first officer have been charged with endangering safe navigation.
It’s not yet clear why the ship strayed miles off course, with the environmental group Greenpeace calling for an investigation.
This is a deeply sad and alarming day for the people of
Mauritius and for its singular biodiversity,” said Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa’s senior climate and energy campaign manager.
The long-term impacts of the oil spill will likely affect whales, turtles, seabirds and much of the marine life in the area, Greenpeace
Results from an autopsy conducted on 17 of the dolphins found on Wednesday are expected later today.