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Experts puzzled by dolphin’s behavior

Fri., Oct. 12, 2012

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Stinky the dolphin is lonely, and he’s getting way too frisky with humans.

The lone male bottlenose dolphin has been cavorting for months in waters off the Cayman Islands, a rare case of a solo dolphin far from a pod of his fellows.

The sight of the dolphin has delighted many boaters, swimmers and divers, but his antics dismay scientists who traveled to the archipelago to study him. They say Stinky is a danger to humans, and they also worry the dolphin could hurt himself.

“He spent a fair amount of time engaging in very high-risk behavior,” said Laura Engleby, a marine mammal branch chief with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “There is concern for his safety.”

She noted the dolphin has a fondness for boat propellers in motion, and that he also likes to rub against anchors, channel markers and mooring buoys, cutting himself in the process.

Scientists estimate he is roughly 20 years old given his worn-down teeth and aging scars.

It is unusual for bottlenose dolphins to separate from their pods, with only about 30 such cases reported worldwide, scientists said. Also puzzling is how Stinky arrived in the Cayman Islands, given that the nearest pods of bottlenose dolphins are in Cuba and the Bahamas, said Dr. Chris Dold, vice president of veterinary services for SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, who also studied the dolphin.

Dold said the absence of female dolphins might help explain Stinky’s behavior.

“What’s unusual about this, of course, is not necessarily the behavior that this male dolphin is demonstrating, but that those behaviors appear to be directed toward people,” he said.


 

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