Dolphins Form Life Raft to Help Sick Friend!

Several years ago, two Atlantic White-sided dolphins showed up literally behind my house! At first, the neighbors and I were so thrilled to see them. This is not a common occurrence where I live.

We quickly learned these dolphins generally do not spend time in shallow bays and that something was terribly wrong. While waiting for the aquarium’s marine mammal team to arrive, I noticed the dolphins were acting strange. One seemed to be repeatedly diving below the other dolphin and raising his/her companion out of the water a bit. It became apparent that one dolphin was assisting the other to breathe.  He/she was trying to help by lifting the dolphin high enough so the blowhole would break the surface. This went on and on, until the second dolphin could no longer be seen.

The aquarium arrived and the story has an even sadder end. The “helper” dolphin was euthanized for reasons I still do not fully understand. Perhaps his/her health was severely compromised by the stress, or maybe both dolphins suffered from the same illness. Perhaps the aquarium does not have the facilities to care for sick marine mammals.

I thought I would tell this story in light of the remarkable dolphin research footage that has been publicized recently. In the East Sea of South Korea, several Cetacean Research Institute staff observed and filmed dolphins forming a “life raft” to assist a sick member of the pod. The group of dolphins literally lined up next to one another and worked to keep the female dolphin upright and in a position where she could breathe.

Throughout history, there have been countless stories of dolphins helping and caring for one another. Apparently, this is the first time a group of dolphins has been seen working together to help a sick or injured pod member. It is a very beautiful and enlightening video, and one that depicts true compassion. I think you will be impressed by what you watch. I have to warn you that it has a sad ending, too.

Check out this informative article by Discovery News that gives additional details:

Also, if you would like even more information, here is a link to the just published research article in the Marine Mammal Science journal:


About wherethedolphinsswim

I've been vacationing with wild dolphins for more than 20 years. You can do it too!
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6 Responses to Dolphins Form Life Raft to Help Sick Friend!

  1. Reneedo says:

    Hi Jo Anne, I found your site when researching the behaviour I just caught on film when visiting the dolphins in Las Vegas. I was trying to figure out what the dolphins in my video were doing, since it looked like they were trying to help one of their group get back up to the surface. Now I’m getting the impression that the dolphins I filmed were performing the life raft maneuver you yourself had witnessed. I had a great view of it from the underwater tank. After I shot the video it seemed like all the dolphins were fine – at least I really hope they were.

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