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Dolphins driven from shore

AT least 200 melon-head dolphins flocked to Manila Bay yesterday, prompting a rescue operation by hundreds of volunteers and fishermen who used their boats and hands to drive them back to deeper waters.

The occurrence may have been triggered by a sea quake that could have damaged the dolphins' eardrums and disoriented them, or the pod could have been following a sick or injured leader, Malcolm Sarmiento, director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said.

He said the dolphins were spotted about 1.6 kilometers offshore, swimming back and forth between Pilar and Orion townships in Bataan province.

Fishermen and villagers trooped to the beach and waded into the chest-deep water, clapping their hands and hitting the surface to drive the dolphins away. More than 20 boats with their engines shut guided the animals to the open sea. "It's something unusual. It's the first time that such a large pod has entered Manila Bay," Sarmiento said.

Veterinary surgeon Alberto Venturina said three dead dolphins found beached farther north included two adult females, one of which was pregnant, and an infant male. The two adults had damaged eardrums.

Dolphins with injured eardrums become disoriented, cannot dive for food and are too weak to swim and just flow with the current, Venturina said. If it's a sick leader, the animal needs to be identified and taken out of sight of the rest of the pod so the healthy dolphins could be prodded back to sea.


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