Monday, August 6, 2012

Flipper: Faster Than Lightning

Yet another Monday has come around, sadly. Folks, I think I'm allergic. Because I can pretty much pick whenever I want to come in to work, I decided to sleep in a little bit this morning...Okay, maybe I slept in a few hours. Whatever. I like this job just because of the schedule! And don't call me lazy! This research job is harder than it sounds. It's my last week here doing this so I'm relishing it while it's here in my life. By sleeping in.

The Spinner Dolphin.
So, dolphins. Dolphins are some of the most intelligent of all marine creatures. Do you believe me? If not, you might once you read the rest of this blog. 
I got the opportunity to have an up close encounter with a bottlenose dolphin when I was 12 in a Florida marine center. Man, was that thing so much bigger than I had expected! Even if you see a dolphin in real life, you can't thoroughly grasp how big it is until you're in the water right next to it. I don't remember the name of this dolphin, but I remember it was a male. He flipped and dove and jumped and splashed. He even kissed and hugged me in his own little dolphin way! I was in heaven, as you could imagine. 
I also got to hold onto his dorsal fin while he swam in the pool. The trainer had told us how to hold his fin. She pretty much said hold on tight. I did, thinking this would be the smoothest ride ever. No. No, it wasn't. It was more of this huge, muscular cetacean kicking me with his huge, muscular tail. It was still cool, don't get me wrong, but I was expecting bruising on my legs later on that evening. More than anything I learned how powerful they are that day. 
There are over 40 species of dolphins, 5 of them as freshwater river species. They are marine mammals, like whales. Also called cetaceans, which is a fancy word for the order that contains whales, dolphins, and porpoises. I personally learned they are nothing but muscle! 
They're highly social animals that swim in pods up to 100 strong. Most people know that their main form of communication is echolocation. Y'all have all probably heard a dolphin make that high-pitched noise before; well, that's echolocation! A dolphin will make those sounds and be able to sense what is around them. If they're ever in really murky or dark water, they will use their echolocation to find prey. 
We make sounds with our vocal chords. However, dolphins don't have those. They make these sounds from this nasal passage in their head, the sound waves bounce off of objects, and the reverberations come back to the dolphin. 


I totally stole this thing from SeaWorld's website. I just couldn't resist! It's not plagiarism because I told you I stole it. Boom.
The most well known dolphin of all time, Flipper, caused a huge flow of public adoration for dolphins. Everyone wants to see these guys. People go to dolphin shows and pay loads of money to swim with them in pools (like I did) every year. Because of this crazy demand to see the real life Flipper who is adored by millions, aquariums and marine parks will go everywhere to find that star dolphin. They take the intelligent animal from its habitat and stick it in a little pool to do flips for children the rest of its life. 
The Bottlenose Dolphin.
Yes, it sounds harsh, doesn't it? I hadn't thought of it like that until maybe a few years ago when I saw this documentary "The Cove." Everyone needs to see this movie! You will learn so much! I won't go into extreme detail since the movie puts it so beautifully put together. Plus, the reality of a dolphin's life isn't all fun and games. There are humans that hunt and kill these intelligent creatures actively.
Visit my Causes tab and there is a link to the Save Japan Dolphins website. This organization has all the information that "The Cove" outlines. It's really interesting, believe me. 
When dolphins are kept in a tank, they become ridiculously stressed and develop ulcers. They are given pills to calm them down, but the animals are still in that little tank for the rest of their life. They're used to open ocean! Catching fish in huge pods! Going anywhere and everywhere whenever they want! But they're stuck. Stuck in a little glass box. 
If I had known about this stuff when I was 12, swimming with the dolphin, I probably wouldn't have done it altogether. Paying good money to that marine center further funds something wrong. Unfortunately most of the public has no idea this is going on. Knowledge is power!
In Australia, I fed wild dolphins on the beach. Now that right there was by far so much better. They are literal wild dolphins. Being intelligent, they just learned that coming into a specific part of the beach will initialize a grand feeding frenzy of yummy fish. Then they leave afterward and go on with their lives until the next night. If you ever want to fully appreciate a dolphin, do it in its own habitat. When it isn't in a cage or enclosure. Then, and only then, will you fully see their amazing intelligence.


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