Neonate disaster


I had an uneventful boat trip this morning. The afternoon however brought some unwanted excitement. A few of the other researchers came across a group of very active dolphins during an afternoon trip. Upon investigation, the cause of the commotion was discovered: #081 (Hai-chan) was supporting the body of a dead newborn calf – likely her own. She was supporting it and trying to push it toward the surface – a behavior that young mothers often perform just after the birth of their calf in order to help the calf take its first breath. She was very agitated and was threatening the other dolphins (and researchers), keeping everyone away form her and the calf. She even bit a few of the other dolphins. The researchers guessed that the calf was probably just a few hours old when it died, or possibly it was even born dead. Unfortunately, they could not recover the calf’s body in order to perform a necropsy that would have revealed just how the calf had died. Hai-chan would simply not let anyone near her. We will try to go out on the boats tomorrow and look for the body, but it is likely that the ocean currents will carry it away. Only 50% of calves make it through their first year, but it seems an even more tragic occurrence for this young calf to have died before it even had a chance. Nature can be cruel.