More than 120 river dolphins have died in the Brazilian Amazon after the water reached 39C, ten degrees hotter than they should be at this time of year.
Thousands of fish have also died in the unseasonably warm conditions.
Researchers at the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development told Reuters news agency dozens of dolphins had died in the past seven days in the Amazonian region around Lake Tefé.
According to the experts, 80 percent of the creatures are pink dolphins, locally referred to as “botos”.
The species is already considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the deaths could account for 10 percent of the dwindling local population.
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Despite the concerns around the high temperature of the water, the exact cause of the deaths is not clear.
Experts fear the mass casualties could be the result of infections or toxins, although the tragedy could be explained by the drought Brazil is suffering.
Such is the severity of the drought, some scientists worry it may remain until January 2024, which could have devastating consequences for the country’s ecosystem.
Chief among the explanations for the dry conditions is the El Niño phenomenon. It refers to a weather pattern known to stymie the development of clouds in the area, thereby curbing rainfall.
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As well as the suffering of the dolphin population, local people’s lives are being heavily disrupted by the wicked drought too.
Due to the density of the forest, those living in and around the Amazon use the riverways to get about.
However due to the low river levels, around 90 percent of boats are under state restrictions, making essential travel and access to essential materials difficult.
Everything from food and fuel to medicine and water is having a hard time reaching Brazil’s Amazonian communities and with the drought expected to continue, the conditions may only worsen.
David Bemerguy, mayor of Benjamin Constant, a town in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, told environmental publication, Mongabay: “We have a worsening of respiratory diseases, diarrhoea and other health problems associated with the drought. We depend on a river connection to help patients. The current situation is unthinkable.
“The situation is delicate, with the risk of total scarcity if the river continues to recede.
“It is the worst drought ever seen here because the river has more sandbanks and less navigability.”
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