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Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has likely killed up to 50,000 dolphins in the Black Sea, according to an expert.
Ukrainian biologist Ivan Rusev, a doctor of ecology at the Tuzly Lagoons National Nature Park in southern Ukraine, estimated back in July that roughly 5,000 dolphins had died.
In a recent Facebook post he explained that the Russian Black Sea fleet impacts the dolphins' echolocation and navigation abilities.
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Disoriented dolphins can then hit objects in the sea, such as mines, or suffer "acoustic injuries".
Last week, Rusev reassessed his 5,000 estimate and concluded that the number of dead dolphins is very likely "much more".
"I have written many times that the sea discharges only about 5% of all dead animals," he wrote on Facebook.
"The other 95% are just going to the bottom of the sea and we can't register them.
"They are not available for detection and counting from the shore, so we estimate that during the Russian barbarians' war against Ukraine, up to 50 thousand whale-like have already died, which is extremely terrible for the marine ecosystem [sic]."
According to the ACCOBAMS Survey Initiative (ASI), in 2021 the Black Sea was home to at least 253,000 dolphins.
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That means Putin may have wiped out 20% of the total population.
Eoghan Darbyshire, an environmental scientist at The Conflict and Environment Observatory, told Newsweek that impacts on marine life are perhaps "the most difficult environmental damages to monitor during war".
She said: "The most visible sign of damage is the washing up of cetaceans (dolphins, whales) on the beaches around the Black Sea.
"Anecdotally numbers are higher than in previous years, suggesting a link with the conflict—most likely military sonar, where there is a relatively well-established link to behavioural change in cetaceans."
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- Vladimir Putin
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