04 July 2008

Agony and death of a newborn bottlenose dolphin in the Amvrakikos Gulf (1)

It’s the 3rd of July and we have been scanning the sea surface on the eastern Amvrakikos Gulf for over an hour. Towards the end the second navigation transect, at 10:10 AM, the familiar spark of the sun reflected on a dolphin’s dorsal fin, far away, tells us where the animals are. Up to now everything seems routine.

But as soon as we approach the dolphins we notice a newborn calf accompanied by two adults surfacing close to him. What initially feels me up with joy and optimism for the welfare of the dolphins inhabiting this wonderful place – a newborn is always good news – is soon replaced by a sad feeling as I realize that this tiny and cute creature is showing clear signs of distress.

His swimming is awkward and his panicking little eyes are wide open, seemingly calling for help. Two adult dolphins are frantically trying to help him on his struggle to stay afloat. Some other dolphins occasionally approach and seem to share a sense of anguish.

The agony of the baby goes on for 45 minutes and at 10.58 he freezes and sinks, disappearing in the green murky waters of the Gulf. We stay with the rest of the group for half an hour, but the newborn has disappeared. At 11:21 we decide to stop the sighting and head back to the field station.

I feel privileged for having witnessed a unique and touching event, but it hurts. It really hurts.

Joan Gonzalvo

Note: The event described here took place exactly one year after a similar one occurred in the Amvrakikos Gulf on the 3rd and 4th of July, 2007. On those days a bottlenose dolphin mother was observed mourning her dead newborn for several hours.

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