All of us remember Flipper...
Dolphins are social animals, living in groups called pods and taking loving care of their babies. They’re also known to be very friendly to humans.
Dolphins help injured members of their family groups and newborn babies to the surface by swimming under them and nudging upward, just as some reports describe them doing with humans. Interestingly, there are some real reports of dolphins helping other cetaceans.
Dolphins came to the rescue during a pilot whale hunt. Somehow, a pod of dolphins who were nearby figured out what was happening. They swam into the shallows, putting themselves at risk, and “herded” the pilot whales out to sea, saving 76 of 80 whales.
Real-Life Cases: Dolphins Saving Humans
You’ve seen it in Flipper and other popular culture stories; dolphins rescuing humans from drowning or sharks, keeping them safe from harm. But does it really happen?
The answer is, surprisingly often!!!
In Greek stories and old sea stories, there are dozens of claims of dolphins helping drowning sailors, rescuing people from sharks, and making themselves useful as guides through treacherous waters.
Several years ago, in the Gulf of Akaba, a British tourist was rescued by three dolphins from sharks. Near the Sinai Peninsula, a ship captain had stopped his boat so several passengers could watch dolphins playing. Three of the passengers decided to swim with them, and one stayed a little longer than the others. To his horror, he was bitten by a shark – and more were coming. Suddenly, three dolphins placed themselves between the tourist and the sharks, smacking the water with tails and flippers, and drove the sharks off so the man could be rescued.
In 2004, a group of swimmers were confronted by a ten-foot great white shark off the northern coast of new Zealand. A pod of dolphins “herded” them together, circling them until the great white fled.
In another case in the Red Sea, twelve divers who were lost for thirteen and a half hours were surrounded by dolphins for the entire time, repelling the many sharks that live in the area. When a rescue boat showed up, it appeared that the dolphin pod were showing them where the divers were
There are several other examples from the area of Australia of similar incidences.
Because we can’t talk to dolphins, we can’t really fathom what their motives are in these situations. It is, however, very possible that they are indeed trying to help and protect fellow mammals in the ocean to safety.
It’s Taiji’s dead dolphins that have made it infamous among animal rights activists: Every year 23,000 dolphins are corralled into a local cove and stabbed to death with harpoons, only in Japan. Most are sold for food, but Dolphin meat sold to the Japanese people is highly contaminated with mercury, methylmercury, cadmium, DDT and PCBs. The Japanese government provides no warning that eating dolphin meat poses a serious health hazard.
The dolphin meat was found to be highly polluted, containing 19.2ppm (parts per million) of mercury. This is 48 times higher than the maximum advisory level of 0.4ppm, set by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry of Japan.
Dolphins which are high trophic feeders, subjects those eating this meat to high levels of heavy metals, such as mercury, and organochlorines like PCBs, dioxins and benzenes.
In humans, even low-level mercury poisoning has been found to cause memory loss, hair loss, fatigue, depression, difficulty concentrating, tremors and headaches. Elevated levels of mercury can lead to heart disease in humans and marine mammals. Because mercury is hard for the body to eliminate, it bioaccumulates.
For some two decades environmentalists in Japan and from western NGOs have been attempting to stop the brutal slaughter of dolphins and small whales in a few fishing villages in Japan. Initial efforts were based on exposing the brutality of the hunts.
The fishermen of Taiji and the Government of Japan know that the dolphin meat is highly contaminated but have done nothing about it.
The dolphin massacres in Japan and Europe will continue for as long as members of the international dolphin display industry reward the fishermen with thousands of dollars for animals that are deemed suitable for commercial exploitation in captivity.