Grieving Dolphin Can’t Accept Her Calf Is Dead, Pushes It Through Florida Waters

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
June 5, 2019 Updated: June 5, 2019

Animals also suffer heartbreak when their loved ones die. A recent video on Twitter shows the heartache of a dolphin who was seen pushing her dead calf through Indian Shores, Florida.

The video was shared by See Through Canoe, a company that manufactures transparent canoes.

“Mother not ready to let go of her dead calf and pushing it through the Intracoastal waterway. It’s hard to say for sure without examination, but the calf may have been hit by a boat. Please don’t assume that because are fast that you won’t hit them,” See Through Canoe wrote on Twitter.

Researchers from Tethys Research Institute observing a bottlenose dolphin population of the Amvrakikos Gulf in the Mediterranean Sea witnessed a similar incident in 2006.

They saw a mother dolphin repeatedly lifting the dead calf to the surface. “This was repeated over and over again, sometimes frantically, during two days of observation,” said Joan Gonzalvo of the Institute, according to Mother Nature Network.

“The mother never separated from her calf…. [She] seemed unable to accept the death,” Gonzalvo said.

A year later he observed something similar when he saw a pod of dolphins trying to help a 3-month-old calf who was dying and sinking.

“The group appeared stressed, swimming erratically,” he said. “Adults were trying to help the dying animal stay afloat, but it kept sinking.”

“My hypothesis is that the sick animal was kept company and given support, and when it died the group had done their job. In this case they had already assumed death would eventually come—they were prepared.”

Mourning Behavior Among Animals

Researchers have reported many sightings of cetaceans carrying their dead young ones and appearing to grieve, according to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

“If we want to be sure, we will have to interview them directly,” said Italian biologist Melissa Reggente, according to NWF.

Mourning-like behavior has also been found in other animals, including elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees, and other primates, and possibly turtles, bison, and birds.

“I’ve spent much of my career studying long-lived social mammals, where group behaviors are critical for their survival,” said Baird.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that these animals have strong bonds with other individuals. In cases like that—the behavior of animals toward the premature death of their own offspring—it would be hard for me to imagine that it could be anything other than exhibiting grief.”

Dolphins as Exceptional Parents

Dolphins are considered great parents—they’re socially skilled, intelligent, agile, joyful, and playful animals that are emotionally intelligent, according to One Green Planet.

Like human babies, dolphin calves don’t have survival skills, and as soon they are born, dolphin mothers become their teachers. Researchers say both male and female dolphins have exceptional parenting skills.

The first lesson that a dolphin mother teaches the calf immediately after birth is how to breathe. As a calf grows, it learns how to swim, eat, breath, and survive from its mother.

Juveniles stay with their mother until they mature, which is five to ten years. One Green Planet states that it can be tough to be a new mother in the sea, and the dolphin mother always has a pod to support her.

“New mothers often have an assistant ‘auntie’ to help in delivering the calf and raising her/him. Dolphins are excellent caretakers and will typically lend a fin when needed. When females reach the age of 40, they stop ovulating at which point they typically become grandmothers,” said the report.

No wonder such intelligent and emotional creatures would grieve when their young one dies.

Follow Venus on Twitter: @venusupadhayaya