BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The apparent death of a baby dolphin after being passed around on an Argentine beach is creating a furor in the South American country.
Photos and video of the incident have begun emerging this week of the incident, which local media say happened Feb. 5 on the popular Santa Teresita beach, about 214 miles (345 kilometers) southeast of Buenos Aires.
In one video posted on local websites Thursday and Friday, a beachgoer is seen lifting a baby Franciscana dolphin out of the surf. The dolphin is passed around while dozens of onlookers touch it and take pictures and “selfies” of it. It’s then seen left on the sand.
Thousands have expressed anger on social media, calling for the enforcement of animal abuse laws.
“Poor animal. What bad luck to fall into the hands of so many ignorant people,” Tweeted Argentine model Nicole Neumann.
In a statement, the Fundacion Vida Silvestre, an Argentine group that works for the protection of animals, called on beachgoers to leave dolphins in the water.
“It’s fundamental that people try to rescue these animals because each Franciscana counts,” the group said.
The Franciscanas, an endangered species, are found in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
In one of the videos, the dolphin, which is only a few feet long, appears to be moving when it’s taken from the water.
Mariano Sironi, a marine biologist and scientific director of the Whale Conservation Institute in Argentina, told The Associated Press that sometimes dolphins hunt close to shore. A baby dolphin can also end up close to shore if it’s sick or gets separated from its mother, he said.
He said how long a dolphin can live out of water depends on its overall health. Their thin skin means they dehydrate quickly and the “stress ultimately leads to death.”
“It was so sad to see the images and not see anybody saying, ‘Put that animal back in the water. It’s not a toy. It’s alive and it’s suffering,'” he said.