Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dolphins


  After reading Anthony Lawrence’s fascinating book on elephants I wanted to explore the enigmatic life of dolphins.
  In her book “Voices in the Ocean” Susan Casey puts together true stories and scientific information about their highly evolved brains and behaviors.
Human beings cannot fully comprehend the intelligence of dolphins. Lori Marino is a passionate scientist who works to understand these creatures that struggle to survive in the oceans.
 Susan Casey recounts many true stories of dolphins who rescued human beings in dangerous situations.
 Did you know, for example, that dolphins have a sense of humor?
 “Voices in the Ocean” also shares many biological facts about their brain. The Von Economo Neurons are brain cells that exist in both humans and dolphins. They are responsible for high-level functions like judgment, intuition and awareness. Only the creatures with the most elaborate brains such as whales, elephants and great apes are equipped with them.
 VENs are necessary to get along with one another, to empathize, to know if we’ve made a mistake. They play a role in the ability to trust, joke around and love one another.
 Dolphins and whales have three times more of these neurons than human beings. It may be for this reason that dolphins operate with a degree of interconnectedness far deeper than our own. There is a strong sense in them that if something happens to a group, it happens to you.
 Their awareness and survival instincts extend out into the world around them.
 Dolphins are also known to form long-term attachments with others, and they maintain them over time, even when they are separated for extended periods.

  Scientist Jason Bruck from the University of Chicago proved that dolphins recognize their friends’ signature whistles even after twenty years apart, and they react with excitement when they hear them. Their bonds are so strong that when dolphins are in jeopardy they will not leave one another, even if it costs them their lives. When they do lose a loved one, they behave in ways that suggest deep grief.

 Unfortunately, these empathetic creatures are the victims of abuse and torture in marine parks, so educate yourself to make sure you don’t support these unethical places. Susan Casey does not spare the details of this cruel business. 

  We also learn about the plight of dolphins in Japan and in other countries where dolphins are killed to be used as commodities. It is equally disturbing to learn that activists who spoke up to protect these creatures were murdered.

Even if dolphins manage to evade the web of fishing nets, they still contend with relentless pollution, pesticides, oil spills, food depletion and many other ecological disorders caused by human beings. This book is a reminder of how greed and corruption contribute to the destruction of these compassionate beings.

 The BP disaster had devastating effects on the dolphins, and the presence of oil in the sea continues to affect them.
 "Between May 2010 and May 2015, 1,199 dolphins have washed up dead. Those are the only ones that we've found. Given that most dead dolphins don't make it to the shore, their bodies sinking in the deep or being eaten by predators, scientists estimate that the real number of dolphin casualties could be five times higher. And the bodies keep coming."

   How can we not marvel at the memorable story of Pelorus Jack? Pelorus Jack was a dolphin who spent twenty-four years, from 1888 to 1912 , escorting ships through New Zealand’s Cook Strait. Amid rough waters, rocks and fierce winds Pelorus Jack guided boats to a safe crossing. Captains would often wait for him. His graceful movements and enthusiasm attracted many tourists.
 “He swam alongside in a kind of snuggling-up attitude,” one seaman recalled. Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling admired him.
 One day the passenger of a local ferry called “The Penguin” shot him with a rifle. For many weeks he was not seen. The New Zealand government passed a law to protect him. After a while Pelorus Jack recovered. This brave dolphin returned to his post and continued to help the ships. Yet he never guided “The Penguin” again.
Every time he saw this specific ferry he would vanish.
       

You may have noticed that I’ve been blogging less frequently lately. I’ve been busy doing some research for a very complex story I’m working on. The act of learning stokes the fires of creativity, so if  I disappear for a few weeks you will know why: the creative fires are burning me.
Peace and joy to you all.
"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper."
W.B. Yeats