We all are a part of the same fragile planet. From the largest beasts to the tiniest creatures, we all live under the same moon, the same stars and the same sun. I believe that most of us have good intentions to take care of Mother Earth. Yet often, without realizing, we do little things that send a damaging ripple through our ecosystem.
In THE SUMMER GIRLS, I wrote Carson’s experience with the dolphin Delphine to be representative of what’s happening out there. She is any of us, out on the water’s edge, in the boats, captivated by this alluring species. It always starts innocently. A desire to communicate leads one to toss a bit of food from the side of the boat or the edge of the dock. We hope to draw the dolphin closer, to have an interaction. Maybe we toss (ack!) some human food. What harm can this one tidbit do?
Sadly, it can cause a lot of harm. Most people don’t realize that with each tidbit tossed we are encouraging dolphins to beg. Now multiply that one tidbit by the hundreds, even thousands, of people who think the same thing. We are creating a generation of beggars. Dolphins, like most animals, will take the handout, despite its poor nutritional value. Free food! To complicate matters, the begging interferes with mother dolphins teaching their young to forage and hunt. The sad result is physical injuries from boat strikes, getting caught in ﬁshing lines and lures, emaciation, and death.
We all think we know dolphins from what we’ve seen portrayed on television or in the movies. But remember, Flipper was a trained dolphin in a human care facility. These animals are accustomed to human interaction and it is monitored to protect dolphin health. Our Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the oceans and estuarine waters are wild, powerful creatures. They are magniﬁcent, intelligent animals with strong community bonds, unique abilities to communicate and have communal hunting strategies. Mammals like us, females nurse and care for their young for years with the help of “aunties,” the other females in their pod. Males form pair bonds that last a lifetime.
Dolphins are curious about us, too. If you’re out on a boat, paddleboarding, kayaking...they’ll likely come close or ride the wake of your boat. You don’t need to be invasive. Let me share a secret with you that all naturalists know. The best way to get animals to PLAY with you is to remain still and quiet. Let them come to you. Enjoy the moment without feeling the need to touch or feed. They’ll dash off if you do and you will have lost the opportunity to experience that rare, nonverbal communication that occurs when mutual respect, awe and wonder is shared.
At the end of the Lowcountry Summer Trilogy, I hope that my readers will feel connected to not only my characters, but to the dolphins as well. I hope you will have enjoyed the three novels and on reﬂection realize that you’ve learned a lot, too. If you ﬁnd yourself wondering how you can help the dolphin--and I hope you do, just remember this one simple thing: LET WILD BE WILD. It’s what’s best for them and best for us.