Cayman seeks US help with horny dolphin

GEORGE TOWN, The Cayman Islands, Monday, September 17, 2012 – A Cayman Islands dolphin who caught international media attention after his sexually aggressive behaviour was posted on YouTube is prompting increasing concern among island officials.

The increasingly aggressive lone male bottlenose dolphin in the North Sound is posing a problem for the Cayman’s Department of Environment (DoE), whose officials now say they have contacted the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) for guidance after the dolphin recently pinned a local diver to the sea bed.

With a possible tragedy looming and a real risk to the island’s tourism reputation if a visitor is attacked, the DoE is urging people to stay away from “Stinky”, as the young dolphin has been nicknamed, saying that he poses a considerable danger.

“Reports to the Department of Environment suggest that the dolphin is becoming increasingly persistent in seeking out interaction with swimmers and divers,” director of the DoE Gina Petrie-Ebanks said.

“Continued human interaction, especially feeding, will worsen this problem and discourage the dolphin from reintegrating with the wild dolphins that occasionally pass through our waters. The DoE has now established contact with NOAA and will be liaising with their marine mammal experts early next week with a view to developing a strategy for dealing appropriately with this animal.”

“As the dolphin could inadvertently injure a swimmer or diver during an interaction, the DoE is continuing to advise the public to avoid entering the water to swim with the animal. Anyone who is approached by the dolphin while diving, snorkelling, or swimming should leave the water as soon as possible,” Petrie-Ebanks added.

The video shows exactly how sexually aggressive and persistent the dolphin, which has been hanging around the North Sound throughout the summer, can be.

“Observing a wild dolphin is a rare privilege in the Cayman Islands,” said DoE research officer Janice Blumenthal, but she warned that lone wild dolphins can be unpredictable and dangerous.

“People who have approached the dolphin have reported ‘jaw-clapping’, which is the dolphin rapidly snapping its mouth open and shut. Dolphins use behaviours such as jaw-clapping to communicate dominance among members of the pod. In interactions with swimmers, this can convey agitation and aggression and is a clear warning sign,” she added.

The reasons why some dolphins become solitary are not well known. While some lone dolphins have become famous for their friendly behaviour, international marine mammal experts have many concerns for the safety of lone dolphins and people when interactions occur. The dolphins sometimes display aggressive and sexual behaviours directed toward swimmers who approach or harass them, leading to serious injuries and even death. In addition, veterinary experts are concerned about the potential for transfer of diseases from dolphins to humans and vice versa. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)