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Home » Travel Tips

The Solitary Dolphin Phenomenon

Submitted by on 05/06/2013 – 2:26 pmNo Comment
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Photo from flickr by pochacco20

Photo from flickr by pochacco20

Dolphins. One of the most sociable mammals in the world. The continual research into how dolphins behave and communicate is well documented in mainstream media- just ask any child and they can probably tell you that dolphins can kill sharks to protect their young. And there is a recurring theme in what is being learnt about dolphins- their behaviour is thought to be extremely similar to humans. They communicate, identify each other by whistles (the way we do a name) and live in families or ‘pods’. They are sociable, and their playful interaction with each other is thought to be important in keeping dolphins healthy.

So what happens when dolphins stop living in a pod? The phenomenon of the ‘solitary dolphin’ has caused concern amongst experts, who are still unsure of why it is happening and what it means for the mammals living solo. As humans, we use solitary confinement as a punishment, so it isn’t a long stretch to suppose that this phenomenon may be causing damage to solitary dolphins.

Of course we all secretly dream of splashing around in the sea one day and being approached by a dolphin who wants to play, Flipper style. But the reality of situations like this is far more worrying than any terrible ‘90s Hollywood movie was.

Scuba divers who have encountered solitary dolphins on dives around the world have reported seeing scratches and cuts, which look like they could have been made by fins worn by divers and snorkelers. Although unintentional, the damage done to dolphins whilst they ‘play’ with humans can be really dangerous for the animal. Cuts can get infected, plastic fins can damage a dolphin’s eyes as well as skin, and the less wary of humans dolphins become, the more dangerous we are to them.

Boats are also another serious hazard to solo dolphins, who reportedly get closer to boats than dolphins in pods. The New Zealand charity The Jonah Project have records of dolphins dying of septicaemia or having to be euthanized as a result of injuries caused by boat propellers.

Experts are currently in disagreement about what this phenomenon means for dolphins and the scientific community. Some argue that there is no value in studying solitary dolphins as they do not display normative behaviour (in fact, the leading international marine discussion forum MARMAN specifically bans mention of human-dolphin interactions, except for when they take place in an aquarium). Others argue that further study is needed, to learn more about what causes dolphins to break away from their pods.

So what can we do? One thing that most experts do seem to agree on is that if the opportunity to swim with a wild solitary dolphin does present itself, we must behave responsibly. ‘Taming’ wild animals can reduce their ability to hunt or defend themselves in their natural environment. It is also important to remember that solitary dolphins are still wild animals, even if they do approach humans, and that any wild animal can be unpredictable and dangerous in certain situations.

If on your travels, you do come across a solitary dolphin, the best decision is probably to marvel at it from a distance, rather than approaching it. Try to report your sighting to a local marine biology group, who may keep records of such occurrences. And if you really do dream of swimming with dolphins, opt to do it in a safe environment, for both you and the dolphin. Marine parks such as Discovery Cove in Florida can arrange for you to swim with dolphins under the watchful eye of an expert.

Writer Details: Laura is a backpacking freelance writer, blogger and sometimes-telly-maker. Twitter: @iamlaurad Blogs at: laurarichards.tumblr.com

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Blanche has written 758 articles. +Aaron Bradford is the leader, mentor and chief geek of HappyTimeblog. He put together the crack team of writers known by codename “The Firm“. He's a permanent traveller and a lifestyle hacker. Wanna know more? Check out my Bucket List or my About page... I'm here to show you how to live a Life Less Ordinary

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