Researchers at DCP are regularly confronted with the harsh realities of life in the ocean for dolphin species. When we observe the wild dolphins of Bimini, we know that each individual faces daily challenges from finding enough food to fighting illness and avoiding predators. These challenges do not always result in happy endings for our dolphin friends, and many individuals – both young and old – can succumbed to disease, starvation, or predator attacks. We rarely witness the death of an individual dolphin, or stumble across dead animals in the open ocean. Often times, when we stop observing an individual dolphin during our research expeditions, we are forced to conclude that an animal might have died. But we have learned from our research throughout the world that not seeing a given individual one season doesn’t mean that individual has necessarily died. Perhaps they are simply avoiding our research boat, or maybe they’ve moved to another part of the ocean and are otherwise happy and healthy. It’s always possible that they will make an appearance again in a few years. Many of the once “lost” dolphins around our research site at Mikura island have been spotted alive and well swimming around neighboring islands. But when an animal has not been seen for two or more years at Bimini, we begin to suspect that the animal just might have passed away.
Over the years, we have had to step back and ask ourselves these tough questions about some of the dolphins in our adopt-a-wild-dolphin program. Finn (#09), Vincent (#11), Freckles (#15), White Blotch (#29), Cleopatra (#41), Trudy (#57), Nemo (#78), Tilly (#87), Tootie (#97), DeeBee (#95), Lumpy (#17), Stefran (#82), Noodle (#94), Gigi (#108), Seabeagle (#106), and Poppy (#112) have all gone two or more years without being clearly documented by the DCP team. It is entirely possible that they have either died, or left the Bimini area forever, but at minimum it means we cannot add fresh content to their adoption kits. For this reason, we are removing them from our Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin roster.
Current adoptive parents will continue to have the option to renew their adoptions of these individuals; however, we will not issue adoption kits for new supporters. Because we cannot update the adoption kits with new photos, video or sighting details, it would be unfair of us to continue to sell their kits.
As DCP supporters and Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin parents, we encourage you to use this update as an opportunity to contemplate the realities of life in the wild for dolphins and other animals, and how difficult it is for researchers to really know what happens to our dolphin friends under the waves. Dolphins are but one fragile strand in the beautiful and complex web of nature, and like all living beings that call this web home, a dolphin’s life story has a beginning, middle, and end. But don’t lose hope just yet – we can’t say for certain just where we are when it comes to the story of these dolphins! We will continue to look for all of our catalogued dolphins, and we’ll be the first to let you know if these “missing” individuals should suddenly re-appear!