By now, most of us have read stories or heard tales of dolphins coming to the rescue of swimmers and divers, and I thought this would be a good time to share some insights. We are now being asked to reconsider the impact that we have on the local orca population, and on October 27th our window for discussing the proposed guidelines for vessels and orcas will close. Hopefully we will come to understand the reasons and value of that increased protection - one of which is the mysterious nature of the whales themselves.
The bottom line is that for many species of dolphins, porpoises, and whales, their survival depends upon their maintaining group unity and culture, and for some dolphins this leads to demonstrations of compassion towards other species. Last year a dolphin led two beached Pygmy sperm whales to safety, an event which was somewhat astonishing and to my knowledge has not been recorded before.
But I got to thinking about it; this rescue occurred by a dolphin who enjoys being in the company of humans, and would therefore feel safe in coming to the aid of the whales when people were around. So possibly dolphins help species other than their own with some regularity but because they might fear us, or because it happens where we are not around, we just have not been fortunate enough to witness such occurrences.
Or maybe we just don't notice.
I saw the following video clip right before going to Hawaii a while back, and it gave me pause. Already phobic about sharks, seeing this did freak me out a bit, but ultimately having watched it help me to put my fear in perspective and I was able to swim with dolphins and turtles and celebrate the experience (however I did stay alert!). So a gentle warning, it might spook you if you have a vivid imagination. Not recommended for kids either. The titles are in French - essentially they describe the events as seen, which involved a Tiger shark.
For the most part, the people were unaware of the event as it unfolded, and it does make you wonder how often dolphins protect us and we never know.
Currently there is a movie out called "The Cove", which documents the slaughter of dolphins by a nation concerned with competition for fish with the animals, (coupled with a desire to eat the dolphins, it would seem). Yet I wonder how many times people in that nation may have received assistance from dolphins. Certainly, there are no records of unprovoked attacks on humans by dolphins.
I am proud to live in a part of the world where such barbarism is not allowed, and where we have evolved an attitude of seeking to achieve balance in how we relate to the Earth and the other beings that share the planet. We are learning to take a step back from conflict and seek solutions, and I am confident that we can come up with positive outcomes for everyone while protecting our local orcas and the waterways where they live.
The proposed federal guidelines for vessels and orcas can be found here, and we have provided links as well.