Group of Dolphins Found Accompanying Body of Drowned Teen

The body of a 15-year-old girl who drowned after she was swept off the rocks on a South African beach was recently found floating in the water with a pod of dolphins nearby.

The girl fell into the ocean at Llandudno beach in Cape Town, South Africa, on October 28, and was swept away by rip currents, according to the National Sea Rescue Institute. Her body was found on October 29 around 0.6 miles offshore, alongside a group of dolphins.

“An NSRI rescue craft patrolling deep sea about a kilometer offshore reported … that the body of the teenager was located floating on the water surface accompanied by a pod of dolphins near to the rescue craft,” NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon told local news outlet The South African.

Dolphins are highly intelligent creatures, with sophisticated communication and social skills in their communities. Anecdotal cases of dolphins saving humans have been reported several times, including one case in 2004 where a pod of dolphins seemingly rushed to the aid of a group of swimmers in New Zealand, circling the group until a nearby ten-foot great white shark left them alone.

“I am certain they would recognize a dead human body in the water,” Olaf Meynecke, a whale and dolphin researcher at Australia’s Griffith University, told Newsweek.

“However, the stories we sometimes hear about dolphins actively trying to save people need to be taken with caution. It is not unheard of that some whales and dolphins have shown altruistic behavior towards other species. Even defending them against predators, so it is not impossible, but in many cases, a close encounter with people is often curiosity, not an intention to save them.”

Other experts agree that it is possible that the dolphins may have been attempting to help, but that it is just as likely that they were merely investigating an unusual scene, or even playing with the body.

“There are plenty of anecdotes about dolphins rescuing drowning swimmers. Some could be true, many others are likely exaggerations. What you won’t always hear about are the times when animals drag swimmers out to sea because the victim isn’t alive to tell the story. It is impossible to know what the dolphins were thinking or doing here, however, I think it is just as likely they were trying to help as they were just playing with the body,” Jason N. Bruck, a biology professor at Stephen F. Austin State University, told Newsweek.

Regardless of if the dolphins were attempting to come to the girl’s aid in this case, they have been noted to appear to recognize death as a concept and grieve losses in their social groups.

“When dolphin calves are born their mothers will help steer them to their first breath. Calves that are stillborn or die soon after birth may set the mother into a behavior pattern where they are constantly trying to steer the lifeless body to the surface,” Bruck said.

Meynecke agreed, saying: “Dolphins certainly do feel strong emotional pain in association with the death of close individuals (peers, relatives and friends). They have been [seen] carrying their dead young for days. This is true for many dolphin species from orcas to pilot whales to bottlenose dolphins.”

This behavior may not be what we as humans recognize as mourning, though.

“In this case, she may not be able to understand her calf is dead, or this drive may be overwhelming that recognition. What is normally an adaptive behavior towards a healthy calf quickly turns into something maladaptive in this case. It is this behavior that is often interpreted by some as whale grief. In truth, it is impossible to know exactly what they are thinking as their minds are separated from ours by 95 million years of evolution, but the urge to anthropomorphize in humans is strong,” Bruck said.

Original Article

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