A baby dolphin died while hundreds of tourists swarmed it around a coast in Almeria, Spain. The terrified and visibly weakened calf was young enough to still need breastfeeding. It somehow got lost from its mother and wandered to shallow waters, where it was surrounded by tourists who wanted to stroke it and take pictures with it. No one seemed to try and help the calf, and several photos show people accidentally covering the dolphin’s blowhole as they “pet” it.
Finally, someone called 112 (the emergency number) and rescuers rushed to help it, but it was too late. The dolphin had died, as some tourists still took photos with it.
“Once again we find that the human beings are the most irrational species that exists,” wrote conversation group Equinac in an impassioned statement in Spanish. “Many are unable to feel empathy for a living being alone, scared, starving, without his mother and terrified because many of you, in your selfishness, only want to photograph and touch it, even if the animal suffers from stress.”
“Cetaceans are animals very susceptible to stress and… crowding them to take pictures and touch them causes them a very strong shock that greatly accelerates a cardiorespiratory failure, which is what finally happened,” said the marine rescue organisation.
The baby’s corpse has been recovered and an autopsy will be conducted.
There is a law against such behaviors, but there seems to be little interest in actually enforcing that law. That coast of Almeria hosts four species of dolphins, along with six species of whales. Equinac pleaded with people to show some consideration in the future.
It’s not the first time something like this happens. Every year there are similar reports from different parts of the world — people seeking photos for social media hurting wild animals, particularly baby dolphins. Time and time again, the story seems to repeat. Just in January, the same thing happened in Argentina.
“They let him die,” one observer then noted in a local TV news channel. “He was young and came to the shore. They could have returned him to the water.”
Chasing wild animals for Instagram or Facebook photos is not OK. “Social media has changed the landscape, making exotic animals seem adorable and acceptable, but what you don’t see is the suffering that lies behind the images,” National Geographic wrote last year. The bottom line is, don’t do it. Don’t try to cuddle dolphins for a photo. Help it find its way to deeper waters, or even better yet, call rescuers and ask for help.
The dolphin in Almeria could have had a good shot at finding its mother and living, had it not been for the people.