Animal Emotions

Do animals think and feel?

Grief Of a Dolphin Mother and Noise Mitigation by Whales: Troubled Waters

Watch a heart—wrenching video and read how whales stop underwater noise

Two very interesting stories about the amazing cognitive and emotional lives of cetaceans recently came into my email inbox. 

The first follows up on some essays I've written about grief and mourning in a wide variety of animals (see also) and deals with a female dolphin grieving the loss of her infant. A graphic and moving video can be seen here. Apparently the dolphin calf had been struck by a boat in China’s Guangxi Zhuang region. According to a news report, "China's NTDTV reports that on July 8, a mother dolphin was spotted with her calf in Sanniang Bay of Qinzhou City in Southern China. The mother appeared to be helping her calf stay afloat. When a tourist vessel got close enough to see the baby, they saw that it was dead. It had a long cut across its belly, probably from a boat propeller. Tourist boats often go dolphin spotting in nearby waters." 

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The calf looked like it had been dead for several days. A fisherman told the station, "The little dolphin was dead for two or three days, but its mother still stayed with it and carried it day and night, which has touched all of us and the tourists. Just like human beings, dolphins also have feelings. A mother's love is noble and moving.'" For some comments on this story and about dolphins in general by Philippa Brakes, a senior biologist at the Whale And Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), please click here

Many aquatic animals are injured by boats. And, there's also great concern that noise can cause pain, suffering, and irreversible damage to their ears and hamper communication among individuals (see "Oceans of Noise 2004" and). Despite this the U. S. Navy plans to deafen 15,900 whales and dolphins and kill 1,800 more. A petition to stop this insanity can be signed here

Along these lines, a recent story in the New York Times discussed how dolphins and whales might control the noise that enters their ears and protect themselves from being disturbed and harmed by mitigating the effects of loud sounds. (For those who cannot access the NY Times the story also appears here.)

The story begins, "Scientists have long known that man-made, underwater noises — from engines, sonars, weapons testing, and such industrial tools as air guns used in oil and gas exploration — are deafening whales and other sea mammals. The Navy estimates that loud booms from just its underwater listening devices, mainly sonar, result in temporary or permanent hearing loss for more than a quarter—million sea creatures every year, a number that is rising."

That's why the results thus far found for a false killer world called Kina who controls what enters her ears have been called "staggering." What she has been conditioned to do is the functional equivalent of plugging her ears by which she controls the volume of sound that gets in. 

Troubled Waters

Let's hope that this research can be continued because we do so much damage to aquatic animals that goes unseen or unheard because they live beneath the surface. These sentient and emotional beings do indeed live in troubled waters and we owe it to them to do all we can to let them live in safely and in peace. 

 

 

 

 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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