A mob of beachgoers desperate to take photos with two small dolphins killed at least one of the animals on a beach in Buenos Aires last week.
“This is more than upsetting,” Lori Marino, executive director of The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, told The Huffington Post in an email. “It is an indictment of how our species treats other animals — as objects for our benefit, as props, as things with value only in relation to us. This is a terribly painful story but it goes on, writ large, every day all over the world.”
Marino identified the dolphin seen being passed around in now-infamous images as an infant. Disturbing footage reportedly from the same incident shows someone pulling a dolphin out of the water and placing it on land as people crowd around.
The Foundation Vida Silvestre, a group that represents the World Wildlife Fund in Argentina, said in a statement that two dolphins were pulled from the water, and confirmed that at least one of the animals died. It identified the creatures as Franciscana dolphins — also known as La Plata dolphins.
Hernan Coria, who posted images of the situation to his Facebook account, called the incident a “shame” and said he did not believe the dolphins were alive. Despite his clear disapproval, Coria is receiving an onslaught of online hate over the photos — probably from people who did not read his caption.
Since dolphins are mammals — and therefore breathe air — some people may be under the mistaken impression that they can survive when held out of the water. This is not the case.
As Vida Silvestre noted, dolphins cannot remain out of the water long because their skin dehydrates and they overheat.
“They aren’t able to regulate their temperature when they come out of the water,” Marino told HuffPost, explaining that underwater, the animals lose much more heat than they do when out of the water. In fact, dolphins don’t even have to be totally out of the water to suffer from overheating.
“We also see this in theme parks when there’s no shade,” she said. “If they’re not spending enough time under the water, then you see [overheating].”
Additionally, the bodies of dolphins, porpoises and whales aren’t designed to support themselves outside of the buoyancy of the water. Being out of the water — whether stranded on land or being held up by human beings– can cause the animals’ rib cage to collapse, causing serious organ damage. And the stress alone from being yanked from the water and manhandled can cause cardiac arrest — as is seen when dolphins are captured from the wild.
If beachgoers find a dolphin that seems stranded, the best course of action is to alert the proper authorities, while keeping the animal floated in the water and its skin wet. Keep any touching to a minimum, in order to avoid the risk of spreading human diseases to the creature, Marino said.
Ultimately, Marino believes that a worldview that treats animals as mere entertainment — and not living beings that demand respect — is what led to the dolphin’s death.
“We use them to adorn our lives, and we, literally, throw them away like garbage when we’re finished using them,” she said.
Irina Ivanova contributed translation.