A little boy was playing with a ball at the side of a pool when he threw it into the water. Then a nearby dolphin spotted the toy and began swimming around with it. And an intrigued onlooker caught what happened next on camera.
In 2014 a video emerged online that revealed an unbelievable encounter between a child and an animal. The incident occurred at a marine park in the resort town of Koktebel in Crimea. And the footage featured a young boy at its center.
The toddler had presumably visited the park with his family. But he couldn’t possibly have known what the day would have in store. His visit included a trip to the dolphin enclosure. And it was there that he would get up close and personal with one of the pool’s residents.
After us humans, dolphins are one of the most intelligent animals on our planet. In the wild, they live in large complex societies, in which members often have their own distinct roles. In these “pods,” dolphins sometimes roam thousands of miles across the ocean, foraging for food as they go.
As a result, some people think that keeping dolphins in captivity is cruel. Furthermore, there’s some evidence that living in confinement is detrimental to these sea mammals’ health. For example, captive dolphins have lower life expectancies than their wild counterparts, even with accessible food and the absence of predators.
However, the only place that most people can witness dolphin intelligence for themselves first-hand is at marine parks. That’s exactly what happened in the case of the little boy in Crimea. And luckily for us, someone caught the amazing encounter on camera for the whole world to enjoy.
In the incredible footage, a little boy can be seen chasing a bright pink ball along the side of a pool. As he does so, a dolphin perches itself on the water’s edge, keeping its eyes firmly on the child’s spherical toy.
Noticing the dolphin’s interest, the boy retrieves the ball before rolling it towards the sea creature. The mammal then somehow catches the toy in its mouth, before throwing it back to his new playmate.
Seemingly amazed, the toddler tries his luck again. He throws the ball to the dolphin once more, and the animal again expertly catches it. It passes the ball back for a second time, on this occasion making an excited-sounding noise as it does so.
The back and forth continues in much the same way for a while, until the dolphin returns to the water. This isn’t the end of the pair’s game, though. That’s because the little boy proceeds to throw the ball to the mammal in the pool.
This time, the dolphin fails to catch the ball, but it doesn’t give up. As the little boy watches from the sidelines, the sea creature enjoys its own little game, pushing the ball along the water surface before returning it to the child by sliding onto the pool edge on its belly.
With the toy returned, the little boy is eager to get back in the game. So, using all his might, he throws the ball towards the dolphin. But he misjudges his shot and hits the animal instead. At this point, the mammal looks as if it night have been hurt, as it sinks back into the water to retrieve the bright pink toy.
However, it seems that any distress that the dolphin might have been in was short-lived. Because, before long, the creature returns to the side of the pool with the ball firmly between its jaws. Once more, it throws the toy to the boy, who is now jumping up and down in delight.
The ball game then carries on for some time. And both the child and dolphin appear to be having a very good time. The little boy skips along the poolside merrily, while the sea creature clicks away with apparent glee from the water.
At the end of the video, the boy throws the ball into the water. Unfortunately, though, we have no idea if the game of catch continued, because the footage soon comes to an abrupt end. But thanks to the film, the encounter will live on for years to come.
Since it was posted to YouTube in 2014 the toddler’s friendly encounter with the dolphin has warmed many hearts. The video has attracted more than one million views, in fact, as well as hundreds of comments.
Beneath the video, one user wrote that they hoped the encounter would have a long-lasting effect on the child. “Dolphins are very inspiring animals,” the comment read. “I hope this kid remembers this moment [and] he would one day protect this animal.”
Given the popularity of the video, it soon went viral, becoming global news. Both TODAY in the United States and the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom covered the unlikely game of catch. Not everyone was a fan, however.
On YouTube a viewer wrote, “I disliked this video for the sole reason that these dolphins are in captivity. They are smarter than us in many ways. Don’t you think they realize they are trapped inside? I am pretty sure they do. The more of these ‘cute’ vids are liked, the more I realize how egoistic and unaware we (still) really are.”
No matter what side of the fence you’re on, though, there’s no denying that the dolphin’s behavior towards the child seems to be yet more evidence of the sea mammals’ empathy and intelligence. So, perhaps the video’s most important legacy is teaching the public more about these wonderful creatures. Maybe that way, we will reconsider how we treat them in the future.