D is for Dolphin
Hands up who doesn’t like dolphins? They are one of the best-loved creatures on the planet – maybe for their intelligence, maybe their friendliness – maybe for their smile. Here is my dolphin poem on the Forward Arts Foundation website:
I’ve made this poem into a shape, which you can see here – not terribly good quality as I had to make the background transparent to enable blue to show through on the jpeg… and making words transparent is a tricky job!:
Dolphins are intelligent. One of the ways scientists test for levels of intelligence is by finding out if an animal has a sense of ‘self’. Do they recognise their reflection in a mirror is themselves, or another dolphin? Dolphins have a sense of self.
They learn very quickly, and what is more can pass that learning on.
A dolphin that was dubbed ‘Billie’ became trapped in a sealock. She was rescued, rehabilitated and released just three weeks later.
In that three weeks she observed captive dolphins ‘tail walking’. On release she proceeded to try it out for herself, and then taught tail walking to her wild dolphin friends.
Dolphins are air breathing mammals, and must surface to breathe. So while they rest, only one half of their brain sleeps at a time – the other half stays alert to remember to breathe. For this reason also, dolphins do not automatically breathe like us. It must be under their control, otherwise they’d risk breathing underwater at the wrong time.
They also cooperate with each other to catch food – they ‘herd’ fish shoals by surrounding them, and then take turns to eat – only when the last dolphin has eaten do they swim away.
Scientists have been amazed by some of the dolphins in one school that herd mullet, a type of fish, in towards the local fishermen.
When the fish are there the dolphins slap the water with their tails to let them know they are ready to be netted. The dolphins gain nothing from this. Why do they do it? Just one of many mysteries!
Dolphins are also gentle and altruistic – they stay with sick and injured dolphins and help them to the surface to breathe. They will even slow down their swimming to allow an older dolphin to keep up.
They are empathetic. It has been recorded on many occasions that dolphins have helped human swimmers up to the surface to breathe.
And lastly for today (although the wonder of dolphins could be expanded into many pages!), each dolphin has their own, unique name, which they make up themselves by their call. They call each other by these names and they respond. It is how they keep in touch as they swim along.
Scientists once played the calls of a group of wild dolphins to a group of captive dolphins from the same group. The captive dolphins became very excited by the speaker in the pool that was playing the names of their old friends. They approached the speaker one by one and called their own names back.
I find this very moving.
We should never keep dolphins captive.
The WDC campaigns to end the captivity of whales and dolphins. This is their website: WDC
If you’d like to make a shape with words, try the Tagxedo website. It’s great fun. This is one I made from the above poem:
Poems © Liz Brownlee
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If you’d like to read about or buy my book, Animal Magic, full of animal poems and fascinating facts, click here.