Really-old-but-still-totally-relevant history lesson (it’s quick—I promise!): The Ancient Greeks were so awed by dolphins, whom they deemed friends to humans, that every time they spotted one swimming behind a ship, they considered him or her a good omen. Now, a new study suggests that in order to respect our marine friends and cognitive cousins, we must simply stay away from them. Findings from researchers at Newcastle University suggest that human interactions with dolphins—from following them in tourist boats to swimming with them to touching them—are harmful to these intelligent, sensitive mammals.
The report claims that when humans swim near bottlenose dolphins and touch them, they inflict severe stress on them, “preventing them from resting, feeding or nurturing their young.” The study found that whenever tourist boats are present, dolphins become unsettled, and according to Newcastle University’s Dr. Berggen, “[T]he dolphins are using more energy than they are taking in because they aren’t resting or feeding as much but are swimming more as they try to avoid the tourist boats.” This has a negative impact not only on individual animals but also on the population as a whole, and long term, it could be devastating.
Every dolphin is a self-aware individual with a unique personality, so it’s no surprise that these animals are perceptive to their surroundings and susceptible to stress-related illnesses. If they’re so intensely affected by the mere presence of humans, just imagine the kind of irreparable trauma they suffer when pulled from the ocean and placed in SeaWorld’s chemically treated prisons. The only way that we can ensure that they’ll live natural, happy, and peaceful lives? Leave them alone—no matter where they are.
Written by Logan Scherer