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Tuesday, November 30, 2004


A LIFEGUARD yesterday told how a pod of dolphins saved him, his teenage daughter and her friends from a great white shark off the northern New Zealand coast.

Rob Howes was swimming with the group of youngsters when they were surrounded by the dolphins.

The animals "started to herd us up. They pushed all four of us together by doing tight circles around us," Mr Howes said. When he tried to break away from the protective group, two of the bigger dolphins herded him back.

Mr Howes said he then spotted what he described as a 10ft great white shark cruising toward them, but the man-eater was apparently repelled by the ring of dolphins and swam away.

"It was only about two metres away from me. The water was crystal clear and it was as clear as the nose on my face," he said.

"They [the dolphins] had corralled us up to protect us."
..................................The swimmers spent the next 40 minutes in the water surrounded by the dolphins before they could make it back to shore.
Ingrid Visser, who has been studying marine mammals for 14 years, said that there had been reports from around the world of dolphins protecting swimmers.

She said that in this case the dolphins probably sensed the humans were in danger and took action to protect them.

Ms Visser, of the group Orca Research, said dolphins would attack sharks to protect themselves and their young.

Rochelle Constantine, an Auckland University marine mammal research scientist, said dolphins were usually vigilant in the presence of sharks.

The altruistic response of the dolphins was normal, she said.

"They like to help the helpless."
Scotsman 24th Nov

So how smart are dolphins? Well We can say that average dolphin intelligence is somewhere on the continuum between above-average human and peak dog, but we cannot say definitively where. which doesn't help a lot.

On the other hand
in 1962, several Lockheed Aircraft Corporation scientists erected a similar barrier across a channel, this time with stronger microphones. As the dolphins approached clicking noises were heard -- possibly sonar soundings. They gathered into a group in nearby shallow water about 400 feet from the barrier. During this time lots of clicks and squeaky-door sounds were recorded. A scout left the group and examined the barrier. When the dolphin returned he was greeted in the same manner as before. After about four minutes of conversation another scout was sent out. Upon his return he too was greeted with the explosion of whistles. After about two and a half minutes the dolphins merrily clicked through the barrier. Returning into the bay that afternoon, and the next morning leaving the bay, the pod did not send a scout when they came to the barrier.....nor did they even slow down.a> shows that the are able to communicate complicated ideas by language. It is difficult to say that a creature with a developed society able to discuss new ideas & cooperate in activities of only philosophical benefit (saving humans) is much less developed than most people you will meet.

On the other hand they have not only not developed technology or fire, which is not surprising since they have no hands & live underwater, but have not cooperated to the extent of exterminating their enemies. Human beings, with relatively little technology, cooperated to exterminate the sabre tooth tiger whereas sharks are still doing well.

On the third hand perhaps this just means that our brains in a way that allows us to make war on other species & each other whereas they have not achieved this.

In any case, until we know otherwise, perhaps we should extend the same legal protection to them as to hairless bipeds.

"Mankind thought they were the most intelligent creatures on Earth because they had invented war & New York & the dolphins thought they were for the same reason" Douglas Adams

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