Unfortunately as the title alludes to this is an uncomfortable post for many people. If you are not a local to Clearwater Florida then you did not hear of what happened to an Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin named Dunham this past Tuesday.
In December of 2008 a sick juvenile male dolphin was discovered stranded on Anclote Key. He was acting listless, the skin dotted with shark bites, and a long cut to the tail further sapped him of energy.
He was roughly 6 years old and was transported to the Panhandle research lab. The staff at the Gulf World Marine Park named him Dunham and discovered he was also suffering from pneumonia.
For almost eight months, the staff worked to nursed him back to health with the help of donations and other private funding. Come June he was hunting down live fish with great speed in his 50-foot pool.
On Tuesday he was ready to leave the helping hands and reenter nature. He was outfitted with a radio transmitter. The transmitter was designed to further research into dolphin life. And all was good, for three hours.
He might have been hungry and that is why he headed towards a spoil island in the Intercoastal Waterway. That shallow water is known for great fishing. This is July and the shallows are also known for something else. Shortly Dunham broke the surface of the water revealing the unexpected. Between the pectoral fin and tail was missing flesh.
He had been bitten. He surfaced a second time with a larger bite in his belly. Reports are varied to the length of the shark (8 to 9 foot). But all agree that it was a tiger shark. This region is commonly known for an increase in the shark population.
The people then euthanize Dunham.
After the event a shark expert for Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute took a moment to examine photos of the wounds. Brent Winner of the research institute surmised that the dolphin was most likely attacked by several sharks of different species. And the fatal bite was consistent with a medium-sized tiger shark.
I personally have mixed feeling about this event. What is natural? What is our roll as humans? When do we interfere with the natural cycle of life? How do we value life? I have read many peoples opinions on other blogs and my head hurts.
I guess what I want to know is, is the life of a hungry dolphin equal to a hungry shark? Both are equal in nature. Why do we elevate one and demonize the other?
If we want to be good environmentalists all of God’s creatures should be equally respected, loved, and protected.