Meeting dolphins in the wild is undeniably magical but sadly most of what we know or presume to know about them comes from observations in captivity.
Mankind has been fascinated with dolphins since time immemorial, with artworks and stories of dolphins decorating ancient temples and pieces of literature. As time passed our mystical and magical image of dolphins changed. Technical progress blurred the lines between our world and theirs, and the more we learnt about their gentle nature the more we liked them. Somewhere in the last century our false sense of sovereignty over the planet prompted us to rob the freedom of the worlds most charismatic creatures for our own entertainment. The cruel practice of captivity is based on a false sense of empathy, that dolphins are intelligent friends who are domesticated for their own safety and for educational purposes. They argue that their lives are better in captivity than in the ocean, a place where they are tormented by plastic pollution and overfishing.
While our oceans truly are in turmoil and while life the oceans has become a lot harder and dangerous for all marine animals including dolphins, claiming that the animals have a better life in captivity is a sad misconception. All of what we know about these animals has shown that these animals are intelligent, self-aware social beings who are bound to suffer in captivity in the same way a prisoner suffers in a prison cell. Thankfully observations in the wild are feeling awareness on the true cultural and complex nature of dolphins that continues to surprise scientists and whale-watchers alike.
Amongst the many game-changers when it comes to encounters and cetacean research in the wild are the Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis). These gutsy dolphins are easy to encounter in the wild both above and below the surface. This has made them incredibly important for scientists studying the social lives and vocalisations amongst groups in their natural habitat and their characteristic spot pattern, which intensifies as they mature, also allows them to associate behavioural patterns into age groups. Beyond this spotted dolphins, if approached correctly, also inquisitively approach people in the water providing a genuine and memorable encounter for their admirers.
The spotted dolphins among many others are perfect proof of that enclosures are an expired and unnecessary way of meeting your favourite animals. Reducing animals to a means of entertainment doesn’t only damage the environment, it also destroys our relationship to it.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
15:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins