A stranded dolphin died on Monday morning in Sanya City, Hainan province, after being manhandled by tourists who used it as a photo prop.
The dolphin was first discovered at 6pm on Sunday evening stranded near Sanya’s Dadonghai beach resort, reported China Daily and Hainan news site Hinews.cn.
With no professional marine rescue centre in Sanya, staff from the Sanya City Bureau of Oceans and Fishing Department were forced to contact Hainan province rescue workers who eventually arrived at 9pm.
In the meantime, Sanya City tourists gathered around the stranded dolphin for nearly 30 minutes to take photographs. Several men posed with the dolphin, eventually lifting it out of the water. This continued until local lifeguards surrounded the dolphin and guided it away to prevent further manhandling.
The dolphin was then declared dead at midnight due to excessive bleeding from the caudal (tail) fin, and Hainan’s Aquatic Wild Animal Rescue Center staff have since begun procedures to bury its corpse. According to their analysis, the dolphin may have been beached after colliding with a fishing boat.
The tourists may now face animal cruelty charges, according to the Daily Mail.
Photographs showing the men posing with the dolphin have gone viral on Sina Weibo, China’s microblogging site. Hundreds of comments have been posted to the photographs, with many criticising the photographers for harassing the dolphin instead of trying to help it.
“Lack of respect for life is the root of every Chinese tragedy,” one commentator says.
Other commentators have argued that the photograph-taking tourists probably meant no harm, but are still at least partially at fault: “It doesn’t matter whether or not their actions brought harm to the dolphin…,” said one.
“[What matters is that] their intent wasn’t to help. It was to take pictures. Extremely shameful.”
Another wrote: “At one time dolphins were considered mankind’s friends. And they were also synonymous with kindness.”
“Now, mankind’s selfishness and ugly behaviour makes me tremble… It must make Mother Nature tremble as well.”