The story of the striped dolphins
by Jörn Selling
Photos by firmm and friends
On the 22nd of may our ex-captain Andres told me about a school of striped dolphins staying already since may 21st very close to the coastline. He showed me some pictures that he took with his mobile in shallow water. The next day kite surfers made pictures of them near the beach of Los Lances Norte. One of the animals had a cut in the skin.
On the 28th of may a friend of mine, who owns the kite school next to the beach bar “Los Vientos” called me to ask why 5 dolphins were swimming that close to the shore all afternoon. They stayed now already for one week near the coast. Striped dolphins naturally are deep-sea animals, at least they prefer deeper water. I could only guess: Maybe one of them was injured or ill.
On may 30th other friends gave me a phone call and reported they had spotted dolphins in front of the Tangana bar in Valdevaqueros, once again close to the coast. They wanted to know what was happening there, but without seeing them I could only speculate about the unnatural behaviour. The same day one of our sailors came to know that three dolphins were spotted in front of the bar Bienestar in El Balneario.
On June 1st Andres, who was the first to tell me about them, had seen one dolphin with plastic in his mouth. On the same day a friend of our sailor went out with his snorkel equipment to take some pictures of the plastic in the dolphins mouth, and was even able to remove it. First I was glad because I thought now the dolphin would be fine. Nevertheless I was surprised that this piece of plastic was noticed only after one week, because I thought this might have been the reason for the strange behaviour.
On the 2nd of June I was told about a single dolphin swimming close to the bar El Chozo at the camping of Torre de la Pena. That was not a good sign; I supposed immediately that it had to be the same one. Did he already swallow plastic scraps?
Late at night of June 05th a friend of mine who also cares for stray cats took a walk on the beach. There she spotted a lonely dolphin in front of the bar Bienestar. Katharina went later at dawn to the beach and actually found the dolphin swimming slowly up and down, only some meters away from the coast.
At 07:00 o’clock the next morning Katharina walked down to the beach and found this young dolphin dead in the sand, in front of the school of Tarifa. On the photo you can see that it was the same dolphin that had the plastic stripe in his mouth. When I reached the beach at 10:30 the dolphin had disappeared. Some weeks later I learned that cleaners buried him in the sand. It is a pity because it would have been important to know the cause of his death.
For ten days the dolphins kept together, till the day the young one was freed from the plastic. It is very unlikely that the plastic stripe remained unseen for such a long time because a lot of people swam and snorkelled with the dolphins. I think that this young animal was joined by the small group of dolphins because he already had problems before. If not why should they have stayed close to the beach in the bustle of the high season?
After the 1st of June the young dolphin was left alone close to the coast till he died. It seemed that his companions gave him up. Poor him. Such incidents make you think a lot. Did he carry the plastic stripe in his mouth to get attention? After he has been freed from that plastic it would have been the perfect time to take him to Málaga, where the only sanctuary for injured or rescued striped and common dolphins in Andalusia is located.