A baby dolphin, found washed up at a beach in Spain, died after mistreatment by tourists.
The calf was passed around and photographed by holidaymakers, some of whom also posed for selfies with the sea-creature. The marine wildlife rescue group criticised the tourists, saying that the dolphin would have been ‘terrified’, and could have been rescued if authorities had been alerted in time.
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Pictures depict tourists stroking the mammal at the beach in Mojácar, Almeira. The dolphin, which was young enough to need breast-feeding, floated “frightened and weak” near the shore after being separated from its mother.
"Once again we find that the human beings are the most irrational species that exists. Many are unable to feel empathy for a living being alone, scared, starving, without his mother and terrified because many of you, in your selfishness, only want to photograph and touch it, even if the animal suffers from stress," wrote conversation group Equinac in an emotional statement.
According to the non-profit group, ‘hundreds’ of people were crowded near the dolphin and were ‘obsessed’ with petting the calf. A picture showed a child unintentionally blocking the mammal’s blowhole as they touched it.
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An alert beach-goer called Spain’s 112 emergency number, after which Equinac rescuers hurried to the site. However, the dolphin had already died when they reached 15 minutes later.
"Cetaceans are animals very susceptible to stress and... crowding them to take pictures and touch them causes them a very strong shock that greatly accelerates a cardiorespiratory failure, which is what finally happened," the marine rescue organisation said.
The corpse of the calf was retrieved by the team to conduct an autopsy. Equinac notified that disturbing a protected species of dolphin could be a criminal offence. Four species of dolphins and six species of whale, along with porpoises, were found off the coast of Almeira.
This story originally appeared on The Independent.