Dead turtles, dolphins, whales wash ashore in SL

At least 118 turtles, 17 dolphins and four whales have died and washed ashore on Sri Lanka's beaches in recent weeks following the burning of the X-Press Pearl container ship, the Department of Wildlife Conservation said.

In a statement on Friday, the Department said the initial post-mortem carried out on the dead marine species revealed the likely cause of death was due to the seepage of chemicals into the ocean resulting from the burning of the vessel, reports Xinhua news agency.

Wildlife officials said according to the initial post-mortem, the deaths of marine species were not natural deaths, and evidence of breathing difficulties prior to death was apparent.

Minister of Wildlife and Forest Conservation C.B. Ratnayake said further investigations into the death of marine species were being carried out, while the Department of Wildlife Conservation added that the final report will be produced in the court soon following investigations carried out by the government analyst.

Ministry spokesperson Nimal Yatiwela quoted in the local Ceylon Today said a total of 118 turtle deaths, 17 dolphin deaths and four whale deaths had been reported and certain external burns on these species had made it evident that it was not death by a natural cause.

The X-Press Pearl ship, registered under the flag of Singapore was carrying 1,486 containers with 25 tons of nitric acid and several other chemicals and cosmetics from the port of Hazira in India on May 15.

The vessel sent out a distress call while being close to the Colombo Port on May 20 and soon caught fire.

The Marine Environment Protection Authority said the burning of the vessel had caused a massive environmental disaster as beaches from the south coast along the western coast had been damaged due to the debris which was washed ashore.

A criminal probe is underway to determine the exact cause of the blaze.