Leave Dolphins Be!

Leave Dolphins Be!
Andrey Armyagov

Spring breakers are being urged to let wild dolphins be wild

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States has urged that people leave dolphins be, addressing in particular the current and coming spring breakers.

These college students going away for their spring holidays, often travel to warm and exotic locations.

The Emerald Coast in Florida is one of these location.

Apart from the usual partying that is often associated with spring break, activities here include boating, scuba diving, and swimming with the local dolphins.

Perils of Human – Dolphin Interaction

However, as any time when humans interact with wild animals, there’s room for conflict and controversy.

In the past, there has been multiple cases of human-dolphin interaction that is far from optimal.

From humans swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding close to dolphin pods, to people feeding and playing with dolphins.

The problem goes two ways.

First and foremost, there have been several dolphin killings, with dolphins who have become too comfortable with humans coming too close to boats and other vehicles.

Second, there have been reported cases where humans have been bitten by dolphins while feeding them. Even though dolphins are intelligent creatures, they are still wild animals, and there’s always a risk when feeding them, both for the dolphin and the human.

Paddle boarding close to dolphin pods is a bad form of interaction – Public Domain

A problematic change in Dolphin Behavior

More long term ramifications include changes to animal behavior, as they get used to accepting food from humans, rather than hunting or searching for food themselves.

There have even been observations by biologists of mother dolphins teaching their young to seek out humans for food, rather than hunting themselves.

This is problematic for several reasons, such as dolphins willingly seek out humans who intend to do them harm, such as illegally catching them for private aquariums, or killing them.

There have been several reports of dolphins turning up dead, after having been mutilated with screwdrivers, firearms, and arrows.

Some have died directly from the injury, others from infections in the wounds.

The problem is that often the people causing the problem don’t see the result of their actions. Feeding or petting a wild dolphin may be fun, and then you leave.

It isn’t until much later that the problem show up, when tourist after tourist have done the same, that the problem starts surfacing.

Humans feeding dolphins can cause them to stop looking for their own food – Public Domain

A call from NOAA

This is the reason why NOAA are now using media, including social media, to reach out to tourists visiting Florida, and urging them to change their behavior around the animals.

For more information, see NOAA’s two Facebook pages related to the topic: 

Don’t Feed Wild Dolphins

Dolphin SMART

Also, NOAA urges that anyone going on a wild dolphin viewing tour to research the operator you’re considering, to ensure that they live up to their ethical obligations.

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