Now Dolphins Spotted Off Mumbai Coast… But It Has Nothing to Do with Coronavirus Lockdown


Now Dolphins Spotted Off Mumbai Coast… But It Has Nothing to Do with Coronavirus Lockdown

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

In Mumbai, the sight of litter or plastic floating in the sea is much more common than any marine wildlife, which is why the city was united in excitement when videos of dolphins being spotted in the waters along the coastline started doing the rounds of social media.

Like in the tweet above, there was hope that the reduced human activity because of the COVID-19 outbreak would allow nature to reclaim its natural place in the world.

People on social media saw the “presence of dolphins on Mumbai’s coast” as a silver lining to the impending lockdown. In fact, there were even some calls for such curfews to become semi-regular affairs by those who were swept up in the excitement.

The news was going viral over the weekend, and like anything that spreads over social media, it acquired a side helping of misinformation, as seen in actress Juhi Chawla’s tweet above. The video is not, in fact, taken from Breach Candy Club. The dolphins were spotted off the Malabar Hill Raj Bhavan Coast by conservationist Darshan Khatau, as his fellow conservationist and editor of Sanctuary magazine Bittu Sehgal pointed out in a reply to Chawla.

While most Mumbaikars were keen to attribute the dolphin sightings to the coronavirus lockdown, experts actually disagree. The Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin, which is the species filmed in the videos, is native to these waters, and experts say their presence on Mumbai’s coastline is nothing out of the ordinary. “Dolphins are present along the Mumbai coast and have regularly been spotted all the way from Manori, Versova creek areas to Nariman Point, Marine Drive, and towards Alibaug for quite some time. It is nothing new, it has nothing to do with fewer boats or an impact of the coronavirus lockdown,” Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (Mangrove Cell), Maharashtra forest department told The Hindustan Times.

Globally, as coronavirus forces more people into their homes, there have been many stories about how nature is springing back to life. But not all of these stories are true. Last week, a story of elephants that broke into a farm in China and got drunk on corn wine was widely shared with adorable photographs.

While the story of elephants breaking into a farm was confirmed, the photos were debunked by Chinese news agencies. Similarly, photos of swans that have always lived in the canals of the Italian island of Burano were misidentified as the canals of Venice, with the return of swans attributed to the coronavirus lockdown.

But as this National Geographic article pointed out it wasn’t real. “The swans in the viral posts regularly appear in the canals of Burano, a small island in the greater Venice metropolitan area, where the photos were taken,” it said.

Venice seems to be a hotbed of fake news about animals, because it was not just swans, but also dolphins that were reported in its recovering canals. However, the “dolphins in Venice” footage was also proved to be from a port on the Mediterranean Sea, hundreds of miles away.

The dolphins in Mumbai may not be fake news, but unfortunately, with the lockdown in place, it’s not like many residents can go catch a glimpse in the flesh. So they resorted to the best coping mechanism they had: Humour.

Here’s to the dolphins, who are clearly having a better week than the humans.