Forget sharks; this summer has seen reports of orcas harassing and attacking boats. But another sea mammal, the lovable dolphin, has reportedly gone a step further and attacked a man in his 60s swimming off a beach in Japan, biting his hands and breaking his ribs in a shocking case of dolphin-on-human aggression, according to the BBC.
On that same Japanese beach, dolphins also attacked three other people, including a man in his 40s who suffered bites to his arm, the BBC reports.
All told, the broadcaster reports that there have been six attacks this year at Suishohama beach, located on the Eastern coast of Japan — grisly incidents that have prompted local officials to tell swimmers not to approach these bullies of the ocean.
If dolphin attacks surprise you — especially since they hold an enviable position in the human imagination — then you haven’t been paying attention.
Dolphin attacks on humans are rare but they do happen; the BBC listed a short inventory of aggro dolphin mauling, including one creature breaking the ribs of a woman and attacking another in Ireland in 2013.
Whale experts said the orca attacks on boats appear to be done by juveniles who are waiting for their parents to come back with food and are biding their time by playing with boat rudders, The Washington Post reports, but this weird dolphin behavior seems less playful.
Are they pissed at our long list of very bad behavior towards their own kind, which includes riding them for amusement, awful man-made noises from oil drilling and military operations, bizarre cross-species sexual encounters, and occasionally even slaughtering them en masse?
According to NOAA Fisheries, wild dolphins attack and bite humans when they are “angry, frustrated, or afraid.” When people swim near them, it can stress them out.
And it’s best not to feed them, because this alters behavior and can make dolphins “pushy, aggressive, and threatening when they don’t get the handout they expect.”
“Dolphins have a reputation for being friendly, but they are actually wild animals who should be treated with caution and respect,” the agency warned.