Michael McCarthy witnessed a truly sad event that brought many people around the world to tears. Dolphins are one of people’s favourite animals. Because of their intelligence, courage and ability to entertain us with their antics, they simply win our hearts and we can’t help but love them, which is why we are all the more sensitive when something ugly happens to them. Michael McCarthy was kayaking near St Petersburg, Florida, when he saw something unusual and very disconcerting at one point. A dolphin was swimming in the beautiful crystal green water, carrying a lifeless body in its mouth. Mr McCarthy was not yet aware that he was witnessing a horrific event.
“When I first saw the dolphin, it took me a minute to realise what I was looking at,” Mr McCarthy said.
“I was hoping it was a giant redfish or something, but it was immediately clear it was a dead baby dolphin.
The dead dolphin’s mother was doing a sort of ‘mourning dance’, pushing him forward with her beak. At one point she stroked it with her beak, probably expressing her sadness for her child in this way, which Mr McCarthy captured on his camera.
Dolphins can really feel sadness and grief, they have an innate emotional intelligence, and so the other dolphins in this school swam around her to reassure and protect her.
“The other dolphins followed the mother for short distances and then separated from her as she swam north on the Intracoastal Waterway, except for one dolphin that stayed with the mother the whole time.” said McCarthy.
McCarthy suspects, based on the scars on the dead dolphin’s body, that this horrific event was caused by a collision between a motorboat and a small dolphin.
“I have spent much of my life on the water, including a lot of time with manatees and dolphins, so I am all too familiar with the occurrence of propeller wounds.
McCarthy filmed the entire event, which shows the immense suffering of the dolphins, to “raise awareness of a situation I experience all the time”, he says.
McCarthy says there is a common misconception among boaters that dolphins are “too fast to be hit”, which is simply not true. “Baby dolphins are much more vulnerable,” he explains, “because they can’t swim as fast and have to surface much more often to refuel with oxygen.”
Also previous research has shown that cetaceans, like dolphins, are capable of grief, especially mothers mourning their dead young.
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