*warning this story is graphic and may not be suitable for all readers*
Popular culture would have most people believe that dolphins are the cutest, smartest, most awesome animals in all the oceans. I’m not really disputing that but in February of 2009 I witnessed an encounter that showed me the much darker side of dolphins. I was volunteering with a research team based out of Bunbury in Western Australia and we were on a routine photography trip, boating around looking to take pictures of bottlenose dolphin dorsal fins for identification. We came across a mother named Lucky (really) and her very young calf. We were ooooing and ahhhing at them for a few minutes before all hell broke loose and my opinion of dolphins was forever changed.
A gang (and there really is no better word for it) of 5-6 male dolphins came out of nowhere. Seriously, I have no idea how they snuck up on the mother and calf, and apparently, neither did they. Before I knew what was happening the males had separated mom and baby and had forced the calf onto a sandbar where they quickly killed it. Immediately all of the males began thrashing and churning the water around the female, all while she was making the loudest and most ear splitting sounds. Just thinking of it now send a shiver down my spine.
The researcher I was with told me that the males were all fighting to re-impregnate the female and that infanticide is a lot more common in dolphins they I might expect. After maybe ten more minutes the gang disappeared, as quickly as they had appeared in the first place, and we watched, crying, as the mother swam slowly to check on her lifeless calf.
Dolphins absolutely are smart and awesome but sometimes we have very different ideas about what these words mean. They also aren’t always cute.