Shotgun pellets have been discovered in the body of a bottlenose dolphin found in the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary in Southern Australia. The incident is the latest in a string of attacks on the animals in the area. Staff at the South Australian Museum performed an autopsy on Graze the dolphin this week, and found four pellets in her body. They believe the same person or group has been behind several such killings.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society science and education manager Mike Bossley has been observing Graze since 1992, and told VICE events like this are surprisingly common. In 2013, for instance, five dolphins were found shot in the space of a month."Unfortunately it's not that unusual," he said. "The Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary was established by the government partly as a consequence of two dolphins being shot dead in 1998. Since that time there's been a number of dolphins in the general area that have been found with shotgun pellets in their bodies as well."
The sanctuary covers over 62 square miles in the Port River and Barker Inlet and is home to an estimated 30 bottlenose dolphins, while another 300 regularly visit. Bossley believes it is the most urbanized population of dolphins in the world, but this comes with certain risks. "When you've got the very, very unusual situation of dolphins living permanently near a city of a million people, they inevitably face a number of threats," he explained. "Dolphins have been speared, stabbed, shot, hit by boats, tangled in fishing line and debris, and have suffered various other injuries and deaths."
Graze's body was recovered from Barker Inlet in December last year, but only examined this week by staff at the South Australian Museum to find the cause of death. Dr. Catherine Kemper from the South Australian Museum told VICE they often have to deal with dolphins killed in this manner. "We have in the past five or six years found several animals shot in that similar area, so we suspect that there are people out there doing silly, illegal things."
It is unlikely that the shooter will be caught, Dr. Kemper said, as shotgun pellets cannot be traced back to a weapon. She said the way to try to curb this type of behavior is community pressure. "The best way to have an effect is to get local people from that area to give the people who are doing this a hard time, because I suspect the locals know who are doing it," she said. "Public pressure is going to be what will stop it."
Bossley said the South Australian government has not been providing the sanctuary with enough resources to try to prevent this type of occurrence. "They were very progressive in establishing the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary, but in the past few years they haven't resourced it quite as well as they did originally," he said. "If we want to keep them it's really important that the government resources the sanctuary properly."
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