Public warned not to swim with lone dolphin

The Department of Environment is warning swimmers not to get in the water with a bottlenose dolphin that has been spotted in the North Sound in recent weeks.

The lone dolphin has been approaching boats, rubbing against moorings and chains and spending hours or days swimming back and forth in small areas in the Sound over the past two weeks.

Janice Blumenthal, a research officer with the Department of Environment, recommended that boats also keep their distance from the dolphin and for people not to feed it, so that it does not become dependent on humans or change its natural behaviour.

“Observing a wild dolphin is a rare privilege in the Cayman Islands. However, wild dolphins – especially lone dolphins – can be unpredictable and dangerous when approached by swimmers,” said Ms Blumenthal. “Therefore, DOE is warning members of the public not to enter the water with this animal.”

She added: “People who have approached the dolphin have reported ‘jaw-clapping’, which is the dolphin rapidly snapping its mouth open and shut. Dolphins use behaviours such as jaw-clapping to communicate dominance among members of the pod. In interactions with swimmers, this can convey agitation and aggression and is a clear warning sign.”

There have been sightings of a dolphin in the North Sound in the past, but this male dolphin seems to be bigger than the animal previously sighted, so either the dolphin has grown or it is a different creature, said Ms Blumenthal.

Department of Environment staff, who have observed the animal, said it may be a young dolphin that has separated from its pod.

Ms Blumenthal said the department thought twice before issuing Friday’s press release about the dolphin, as it may encourage more people to try to view the dolphin in the Sound, but said the potential for swimmers to be injured by the dolphin needed to be communicated to the public.

“It’s not just in one area all the time. People have reported seeing it on one part of the Sound and then in another place… It’s gotten to the point where we are getting more calls from people saying ‘I swam with it and it snapped its jaws at me’ and we felt since it may be a threat for people to get in the water with the dolphin, it would be wrong for us not to communicate that,” Ms Blumenthal said.

She explained that the dolphin was not attacking or trying to bite people, but because it is not accustomed to being around humans, it may be acting aggressively, so it was important for swimmers to stay away from the animal.

It’s not known why some dolphins become solitary. In some parts of the world, lone dolphins have become famous for their friendly behaviour, but international marine mammal experts have expressed concerns for the safety of lone dolphins and for people when interactions occur. The dolphins sometimes display aggressive and sexual behaviours directed toward swimmers who approach or harass them, leading to serious injuries and even death.

Veterinary experts are also concerned about the potential for transfer of diseases from dolphins to humans and vice versa, Ms Blumenthal said.

Sightings of the dolphin should be reported to the Department of Environment on 949-8469 or email [email protected]
 

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The dolphin has been spotted in the North Sound over the past two weeks. – PHOTO: FULVIO BONATI

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The dolphin has been rubbing against boat moorings. – PHOTO: SUBMITTED
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4 COMMENTS

  1. Is there a law prohibiting people from catching and frying the poor thing, because some of my friends are already talking about catching him and selling him per pound.

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  2. Actually my sailing partner and I saw this Lone Dolphin on our first sail of 2012 January 29. He came up to my boat and hung out with us for over 45 minutes. The very next weekend we were sailing and up he jumps up from the water and made a bee line to my boat he swished around at the stern and then jumped up three times in the air swam under the boat and proceed to hang with us for over an hour. When under sail I just tap on the hull so he can hear us. It is a true fact that the male dolphin uses his penis like a hand and feels of things. I think he thinks my sail boat is a nice big happy girl dolphin. After witnessing his extension and actions I googled it right away once back on land. You can google it too. Dr. B is correct in that they are sexual creatures and will be very aggressive toward swimmers – and can be very dangerous. My sailing partner and I have loads of video and photos of Our Friendly Fish Friend we decided against telling the press for fear of too much human madness and his risk of captivity (like by the dolphin parks). We say let him be wild and free – let him be the treasure for us to experience when out in North Sound. He has some scratches on his back and dorsal fin which obviously he has encountered some sharp objects – I know that divers have seen him in some of the lobster holes and at another location which we won’t disclose. Please everyone don’t feed him, don’t try to swim with him, and do not capture him. Let him be free and friendly.

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  3. Could this be Spot the Dolphin, how swam with divers and snorkelers on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac almost daily back in 2001(?)?! Spot loved rubbing against mooring lines and SCUBA hooka lines like the article suggests, and was very playful, when in a good mood. I seem to remember Spot had a heart shaped birth mark on his belly. He was decidedly male. Most of us felt Spot was a trained Dolphin who escaped from captivity. Could this be he?!

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  4. DOE thought twice before issuing Friday’s press release about the dolphin, as it may encourage more people to try to view the dolphin Well, maybe they should have thought more than twice, because they easily could have given the warning to the public without giving the North Sound location. It would have sufficed to say A dolphin has been seen in various locations on Grand Cayman…

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