Lone dolphin poses threat

| 08/10/2012

644517_474330445922043_652263431_n_0.jpg(CNS): Experts from the US who visited Cayman last week to assess the lone male bottlenose dolphin that has been attracting considerable attention recently have confirmed that it does pose a real threat as it is exhibiting serious negative behaviour. The marine mammal experts from Seaworld and NOAA were able to confirm that the dolphin is older than suspected and that the public should not approach or attempt to swim with the marine mammal as it has the potential to cause harm. Armed with more information about the dolphin’s behaviour, the Department of Environment (DoE) will be now convening a panel of international experts alongside the three US guests to discuss the best way forward for the animal and the public.

in the meantime, the experts reiterated the warning issued by the DoE for everyone to stay out of the sea when the dolphin is around, and if it approaches divers or snorkellers already swimming they are advised to get out of the water.

The three behaviour experts were in Cayman last week for two days observing the dolphin using film and photographic footage as well as their own sightings to put together an analysis of the marine mammal’s behaviour. Although the dolphin sightings have been escalating since June of this year, along with reports of aggressive and sexual behaviour towards divers, swimmers and boats, there have been several past reports of a lone dolphin in the sound, though it has not yet been confirmed as the same animal.

Trevor Spradlin, a marine mammal biologist at NOAA's Office of Protected Resources, Laura Engleby, a marine mammal branch chief with NOAA's Protected Resources Division, and Chris Dold, Vice President of Veterinary Services at Seaworld Parks and Entertainment, all said that the boating and swimming community should resist the temptation to try get in the water and swim with, touch or try to feed the dolphin, which has been nicknamed ‘Stinky’. 

Dold warned people not to try and fend the dolphin off if it approaches because to the dolphin that appears to be some form of engagement. While you may be sending the message "Back off, dolphin!" (a natural reaction, he said), to the dolphin it is encouragement.

“The best thing is not to give him reinforcement or engage him and if he’s staying around, end your dive as quickly but as safely as you can,” he added.

Although the dolphin has sustained some past injuries, they have healed leaving scars but no serious damage, Dold said. While he is thinner than he should be, the vet thought he was relatively healthy. However, the problem is his behaviour.

All of the experts warned that there was a very genuine risk of someone getting hurt as the actions displayed by the lone male were aggressive and negative, consistent with what they know of the behaviour of dolphins when they are outside a social group. Unable to explain why Stinky has gone rogue, they said the situation was very rare, with only around 30 other incidents known. Spradlin explained that they were currently dealing with a similar situation in Louisiana with another lone male dolphin.

The marine mammal experts said that some of the things the Cayman dolphin does, such as tail slaps, opening his mouth, chuffing (a sharp exhalation of air through his blowhole), are the warning signs that ‘Stinky’ is not happy.

There is no quick fix to the situation, however. The experts said their visit to Cayman was both fruitful and interesting but it was not the end of the matter. They will be keeping in touch with the DoE to help determine a long-term solution but in the end the dolphin’s predicament would depend on the behaviour of the humans he meets and whether or not his negative behaviour is reinforced and then escalates.

Moving the mammal is not an option as no one knows anything about the history of the animal, which is estimated to be over 20 years old. Dold explained that, without knowing where he came from, it is not possible to just take him and put him with an existing pod. Although it may be possible to put the dolphin in a captive facility, Dold said, a lot of study would be required on his behaviour before that could happen. The future for Stinky is unpredictable and the vets noted that these circumstance rarely end well.

DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said her department would be starting a campaign to educate swimmers, divers and operators about what to do when they encounter the animal, but there was some legislation to help the DoE enforce the message about staying out of the water. A provision of the Marine Conservation Law prevents direct interaction with any marine animals, such as feeding them, outside the islands’ wildlife interaction zones so anyone seen swimming with or feeding Stinky could be prosecuted.

However, she said they hoped that would not happen, as she emphasised the message that not interacting with the dolphin or engaging him in any way was the only safe way forward until a long term solution is found.

The experts were in Cayman at no cost to the public purse. They were assisted by the Department of Tourism, CITA, the Grand Caymanian Resort and Cayman Airways.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Science and Nature

About the Author ()

Comments (36)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Thunder Storm says:

    It may be possible that this lonely and depressed mammal is hanging around here, taking his frustrations out on those in our waters because his family was "kidnapped" and caged in a concrete pit somewhere on the island.


    We all have heard that its been proven that these mammals has the same kind / type of emotions we humans have.


    So tell me, does Stinky have a mental problem? or is he pissed-off for some other reason??


  2. Anonymous says:

    For those who somehow do not get the "leave the dolphin alone" and the ones whose ideas  are to just to kill everything, please go to one of the parks in Florida with a pond or lake and swim with the alligators and try to touch and molest them.  Please.  Maybe you will get it then.

    Live and let live. Simple.

    • Anonymous says:

      Play with Dolphin…..or play with Alligator….hmmmmmmmmm, I wonder which one I'll choose……Foolio is that you again?

  3. Da Bracster says:

    I dont see Stinky the Dolphin out here rounding up our Stingrays to put in captivity. No suggestion about getting rid of Dolphin Discovery for their aggression towards our marine life.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Release his brethren! …then he will be happy!

    • Anonymous says:

      Self-indulgent, sentimental nonsense. It’s a wild animal, not a school kid.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Get Stinky a dolphin mate quickly, or maybe a dolphin sex therapist

  6. Anonymous says:

    It's a good thing Cayman has no bears.

  7. Anonymous says:

    What is it about dolphins? We used to offer a million dollars every June to kill magnificent big fish, and we show absolutely no mercy to lion fish. But we wail and wring our hands as soon as the magic word “dolphin” is uttered. Is it really morally worse to kill a dolphin than a fish, and if so, why? Because of Flipper? Because dolphins are allegedly more “intelligent”? (What does that mean, anyway?). Because theysmile and make charming noises? Because “they mate for life” (spare me)? Because they’re mammals?

    I have no firm view one way or the other. But if we kill other animals that are a nuisance or because we like the taste of them, let’s just kill this creature too and move on. If we don’t, my fear is that it will harm someone sooner or later.

    And here’s a thought: if there was a threatening shark in North Sound, a price would have been put on its head by now. What’s the difference?

    • Anonymass says:

      Because maybe, just maybe, we're learning that we don't have to kill every animal, be it a shark or a dolphin, because it MIGHT hurt someone. Just leave the dolphins and the sharks alone.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hilarious to read how some people over-identify with animals a bit too much…

    • Anonymous says:

      And sadly, many identify too little. There is no scientific or biological reason to take the view  that higher animals' capacity to suffer in life is any less than  ours, whether the measurement taken is of emotional distress, physical pain, primal fear or plain old hunger. These are all survival mechanisms that we share with all of our distant relatives on Earth.

      • Anonymous says:

        Nobody is saying that we dont share survival mechanisms, but there are definitely a few people who justify being rude to thier fellow humans by over-compensating thier love for thier pets… 

  9. Anonymous says:

    "stinky" should change his name to "Horny"

  10. Anonymous says:

    Call the owners at Dolphin Discovery and have their Mexico experts take Stinks over to their stalls and mate with their Dolphins. Stinky is hard up that is this poor Dolphin problem.      

  11. Anonymous says:

    I am excited about the dolphin being in the Cayman waters.  People please remember our place to live is on the land, the Dolphin's place to live is in the sea no matter where it goes.  He is not imposing on us, and we sould not  impose on him.  Watch him from a distance and let him swim free.

    I say leave him right here in the island, do not move him to any private place or city.  We want Stinky to stay.

    I agree that divers should not try to become friendly with him unless he shows friendlyness first.  Then there could be a gradual taiming.

    Many years ago It all began with one Stingray, and we now have them eating out of our hands, so why don't we be patient and be the same way with the dolphin.  Maybe in a year or two he will become our very best friend and follow us home.

  12. Diogenes says:

    Not that I think it makes a difference to whether the visit was necessary or helpful, but how do you reconcile the claim that the visit was at no cost to the public with the fact that the team was "assisted" by DoT, CITA and Cayman Airways?  How did they assist exactly, if not in providing services.  If those services were paid for by the visitors, its hardly assistance.  If they were not, then the public did pay for it. 

  13. Naya Boy says:

    Stinky has now left the area  because he too does not want to live in exile at either Dolphin Discovery or Mexico. smart fellow!

  14. Raffael says:

    Send Stingy the Dolphin to Mexico Stingray Beach Cozumel Cayman's newest competitor in Stingray tourist attraction. Its a pity some are so blind and dumb on this island. Poor old Cayman sinking below the waves in the Sea of Greed.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I know someone who snorkels regularly in the area where Stinky hangs out.  He (the snorkeller) minds his own business and practically ignores Stinky.  Stinky has been inquisitive but entirely non-violent every time the snorkeller and he have come across each other.  The snorkeller has also come across Stinky in other areas outside the North Sound, and each time, it has beeen the same, Stinky has poised no threat whatsoever to him, and both have gone about their business without any problems.

    • Anonymous says:

      Stinky also pays regular visits to my buddies yard in South Sound by Sand Key (the island, not the appartments). I have also been out surfing in front of the Community Center where he came up and said hello and then we were both stinky……

  16. SpotsyDebbie says:

    Well said:  …"the oceans belong to marine mammals and all other marine life…"  Leave "Stinky" alone.  He's where he belongs.  If humans choose to invade "his" space, it's at their own risk!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Some animals need to be killed, Stinky should be shot

    • Another Anon says:

      The anto-social misfits that currently inhabit Northward are shown mercy, why not old Stinky? If I could choose who lives and who dies, it would most certainly be the rapists, child molesters and murderers in Northward before Stinky.

    • Anonymous says:

      I know you must be talking about the two legged animals that go around raping and killing who have NO right in going into people's homes and taking what is not theirs….Stinky is in his home and we are the ones invading it..you are a sick indiviudal and I hope what comes around goes around

    • Anonymous says:

      Ignoramus! Dolphins are mammals.

  18. Anonymous says:

    It poses threat only if one approaches it. DO NOT APPROACH! Simple like that. He is in his habitat (HOME). People are intruding.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ithink we should trade him for the 6 stingrays.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes the sea is his "home" in general, but not specifically the North Sound as he has only been there since 2009…..he will be rolled over in 2016.

  19. Animaliberator says:

    Interesting development, except for the part where the article says that a situation such as this rarely ends well.


    Perhaps it should be noted (just as a reminder) that the oceans belong to marine mammals and all other marine life in general and not to land mammals such as humans. Marine life forms should be highly respected by humans as we do not really know how to behave in that environment and usually mess things up in a pretty bad way with little or no regard for the consequences and human superiority madness can not apply in any form or way. It is already hard enough to control humans on land. Respect will be given to those who respect the oceans and land for that matter all that is within. All other deserve the true meaning of the name "Stinky".

    • Chuck D says:

      But dolphins were land mammals that left the land and evolved to live in the sea.  We evolved on land rapidly and now compete with them in the sea for resources.  So I fail to see why our better evolution strategy means we should bow to their poor previous selection decisions. 

      • Anonymous says:

        You had better hope that JuJu doesn't read your nonsense about dolphins evolving. They have always been sea creatures, and guided the Ark safely after in had drifted for 40 days passing over CaymanBrac on its way to the final destination of Mount Ararat.

      • Anonymous says:

        How Republicans would address environmental issues, if they accepted evolution.