A baby dolphin was rescued by a group of fast-acting teenagers in Western Australia.
The dolphin had gotten separated from its mother on Thursday afternoon. As the tide was going out, the young mammal was stranded in the shallows. While kayaking on Goegrup Lake in Mandurah, group of three 15-year-olds saw the dolphin calf floundering in shallow water. Zachary Allegretta, Michael Randall, and Ryan Dalzell knew immediately that it was in trouble. According to The Inertia, the boys thought the calf was sick at first. Allegretta described the dilemma.
“We saw the tide was going out and it was beached.”
The water was shallow enough to wade, and it would be a matter of hours before the dolphin would be completely out of the water.
“The mother wasn’t anywhere around and the baby was doing its mimic call to attract her.”
By saying this, Allegretta revealed that even at his tender age, he understood more about dolphins than most people. As explained in this article by the Daily Mail, a baby dolphin will mimic its mother’s cry in order to attract her. According to St. Andrews University researcher Dr. Stephanie King, the ‘mimic call’ is a short, sharp individual whistle reserved for certain relationships within a pod.
“Interestingly, signature whistle copying was only found in pairs of animals composed of mothers and their calves or adult males who form long-term alliances with one another.”
According to Allegretta, this baby dolphin wasn’t very happy about their attempts to move it around.
“It was very stressed and very jumpy and obviously wasn’t comfortable with the situation. As we came to it, it got more and more scared, and I started patting it so it calmed down.”
Dolphins are composed of more condensed muscle power than any other animal. They are very heavy. Even a calf weighs more than it appears. This weight is what makes beaching so deadly for them. If it lies on land long enough, even though it breathes air, a dolphin will eventually suffocate.
Allegretta said it took almost 30 minutes to move the calf back into deeper water. Finally, as shown in his exuberant video, the dolphin reached water that was deep enough to swim, and was gone in a flash, no doubt reunited with its family.
It is unusual for a mother and baby dolphin to be separated. They are so bonded that they swim as one, and are usually even touching. This short video is a beautiful demonstration of how they move in sync.
It remains a mystery how this baby became separated. There may be a number of reasons why dolphins beach themselves.
- It’s “believed to be a natural consequence” of geography, according to environmental reporter Joanna M. Foster in an article for The New York Times. “Around the globe, hook-shaped capes appear to effectively channel dolphins and other animals into large shallow bays that experience large tides.” This would explain why there are so many incidents of beaching in places like Australia and New Zealand.
- Sonar may be getting jammed or confused due to activity from sonic booms or submarines. It’s difficult to know how much interference in the oceans is creating havoc for the sensitive functions of dolphins and whales. Sound travels over a great distance under the water.
- Climate change may be affecting migration and confusing the animals.
- Illness may be causing strange behaviors. The consumption of toxic fish or anything that affects the system can cause distress and perhaps a loss of a sense of direction.
— Mina*Bad Yoga Kitty* (@MinaANDMaya) January 30, 2016
There are still many things we don’t know about dolphins and aquatic life. It is encouraging though to see young people who know and care enough to do exactly the right thing when the situation calls for it. It is heartening especially with activist Ric O’Barry still imprisoned in Japan due to his protest of the dolphin slaughter in Taiji.
We need more people like Zachary Allegretta.
[Photo via Shutterstock]