Editorial for 9 July: Wild dolphins are just that

To bring to the public’s attention that a
wild dolphin is playing in our waters in the North Sound or to keep it a
secret; that is the question.

At least that’s one of the questions the
Cayman Islands Department of Environment had to weigh last week when it kept
receiving reports of a sighting of a wild bottlenose dolphin.

It was an issue of letting the public at
large know about the dolphin and encouraging people to go dolphin watching,
which could endanger the animal, or letting people know he was there and that
playing with or trying to swim with him could be dangerous.

It was a decision not lightly made, but one
that was the right thing to do.

While dolphins are cute and loveable, they
can be quite dangerous.

Here are some things to consider when you
encounter a dolphin in the wild:

Don’t feed them; they may begin to
associate humans with food and approach boats for handouts.

Don’t separate a group of dolphins. They
tend to travel in pods and will cooperatively hunt for food.

Don’t follow a dolphin that chooses to
leave. If a dolphin in the wild comes up to investigate you or your boat, enjoy
the encounter, but respect the dolphin’s desire to leave.

Do leave the area if dolphins begin to show
signs of aggression or sexual behaviour.

While we would all like to think that
dolphins are gentle and tame, they still are – at the end of the day – large
wild animals.

The DoE made the decision to tell us about
the dolphin after receiving reports of people telling them that they had tried
to swim with the dolphin and it snapped its jaws.

If someone got hurt by the dolphin and DoE
hadn’t informed the public of the dangers, it would have been doing all of us,
as well as the animal, a disservice.

Seeing wild dolphins in our waters is
certainly a treat and one that should be enjoyed by those who are privileged to
have the encounter. But common sense and safety should rule the day.