Everybody tends to talk about love before Valentine’s day and I personally believe that human beings innately possess a love, or better said a fascination, for the natural world. Like love, this fascination may either be nurtured in life or neglected to the point it disappearing almost completely.
I always have and always will love the ocean. The ocean is not only important for life on earth, it is its birthplace. All our common ancestors emerged as primitive beings in a primordial soup and, after millions of years of evolution, the ocean continues to astound us with its incredible diversity. Many ocean dwellers evolved to colonise new habitats on land but the ancestors of cetaceans did things a little differently; they returned to inhabit the oceans.
Apart from partially representing our ancient link to our oceans, dolphins also have fascinated us more than most other marine creatures and this fascination dates back to ancient times. Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) were frequently mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman art and literature, making them one of the pioneer dolphin species to be recorded in interactions with humans. Today we enjoyed a sighting with these gorgeous dolphins as they were engaged in an epic hunt, a spectacle that can be expected at this time of the year.
The strong connection humanity feels towards dolphins can be explained by the fact that we can relate to them: they are smart, charismatic, very social and show empathy. They are also extremely curious and actively investigate the world around them. They also pass this important knowledge on to younger generations by means of social learning, an attribute that has lead behavioural scientists to refer to them as “cultural” beings.
These parallels are best represented in the Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) that is undoubtedly the most popular and well documented of all cetacean species. Bottlenose dolphins are extremely inquisitive and, although they showed measured interest in our boats today, they are the species that is seen interacting most often with other cetacean species. Unfortunately, Bottlenose dolphins are also the best representation of how our love and fascination for animals can lead to us mistreating them. Countless Bottlenose dolphins have perished in captivity or as a result of scientific experiments. Irresponsible conduct at sea during whale-watching activities have also lead to injuries or stress in coastal populations of this species.
Ultimately, we are in charge of how this ancient love-story we have with cetaceans continues. I have always loved dolphins but, more than anything, I respect them. I hope that the knowledge we spread during our tours at Lobosonda contributes to people understanding the sophisticated lives of these animals and that they don’t actually need our love. They do, however, deserve our respect so that they can thrive and, in turn, we can hopefully continue admiring them for decades to come.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Short-beaked common dolphins