Earlier this week there was a news story about a dolphin that was “mourning” the loss of her baby calf. She was carrying it on her back, and some fishermen in China caught it on video.
I would have been dubious that this dolphin actually was experiencing an emotion of sadness. Except, while we were at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, we witnessed an encounter with Winter and another dolphin named Panama.
Panama is estimated to be about 40 years old. There are four dolphins at the aquarium: Winter, Panama, Nicholas and Baby Hope (who is in the banner photo here with Neil). We soon learned how to tell the differences. Winter’s was obvious, of course (no tail). Panama was large and had markings on her tummy that the trainers explained were age spots. Nicholas was very dark, and he had pink spots on his back, which were identified as sunburn. And of course, Baby Hope, being the baby, was the smallest and a real clown and a show-off.
On our fifth day at the aquarium, we came in early as usual so that Neil could whistle to Winter. (see previous entry, “The Magical Whistle” about that story)
But on this particular morning, we discovered a large crowd of people in scuba suits sitting on the ground in a circle. And in the middle of the circle, on a large tarp, was Panama.
We asked one of the staff members what was going on, and it was a regular medical check-up. But it required all of those people to lift her from the water and sit around her while it was going on, and then it required all of them to put her back in.
While I was snapping photographs of this (which will be below here …), Neil was whistling to Winter. She was whistling back. And then all of a sudden, she stopped. Panama was being lifted back into the water on her tarp.
Winter swam over to a small gate to the adjacent tank. She put her nose right up against the shut doorway. And she didn’t move.
“Mom,” Neil tugged on my arm while I was snapping the camera. “Mom, look at Winter. She stopped whistling. She’s worried about Panama.”
Sure enough, as soon as Panama was back in the water, Winter swam away from the gate and started whistling at Neil again.
We both were touched and amazed at these creatures. How did she know her “friend” was out of the water? There would be no way for her to see what was going on. But the minute that the other dolphin was in, she was fine again.
Here are my photos of the procedure of getting Panama back in … and lastly, a photo of Winter as she waited for Panama to be put back in the tank: