The dolphin didn’t realize how shallow the water had become or how thick the surrounding seaweed was. Now it clung to the creature’s body like the constricting grasp of a squid’s tentacles. Then, as the dolphin struggled to move, a dark shape approached.
Scotland is famous for many things: its stunning scenery, actress Karen Gillan and even Harry Potter’s wizarding school, Hogwarts. And it also has plenty of surprises in store for visitors and locals alike. For example, it offers excellent water sports opportunities.
One of the groups that have been wowing vacationers is Clearwater Paddling, based in Scotland’s Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. Its website describes the firm’s activities as “guided sea kayaking tours in the most beautiful of places.” But it’s involved in more than just aquatic sightseeing excursions.
Clearwater Paddling also offers kayakers a chance to witness some of the local wildlife. The waters and coasts surrounding Barra are home to a wide variety of different animal species. If you’re lucky enough, you can see basking sharks seals, otters, golden eagles and even orcas.
You can also find bottlenose dolphins swimming in the Outer Hebrides. In fact, Barra’s coasts are a popular spot for them, according to the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. And the IQ of these creatures has long been the subject of discussion.
Several experiments have revealed that dolphins are highly intelligent. They’re able to use sponges as tools to find food, for instance, and even have their own language. Indeed, some experts believe that dolphins are smart enough to be given a new status as non-human persons.
Ethics professor Dr. Thomas White, of Californian’s Loyola Marymount University, told The Daily Telegraph as much in February 2012. “The similarities between cetaceans and humans are such that they, as we, have an individual sense of self,” he said. “Dolphins are non-human persons.”
Furthermore, people have even reported being rescued by dolphins when they’ve gotten into trouble at sea. For example, in Manfredonia, Italy, a dolphin saved a teenager called Davide Ceci from drowning. It pushed Ceci up to the surface after the boy fell into the sea.
And that isn’t the only recorded instance of a dolphin coming to the aid of stricken humans. There have been several reports of pods of dolphins forming rings around people to protect them from sharks. And dolphin authority Dr. Diana Reiss says that these actions are a result of choice, not instinct.
“Dolphins make conscious decisions about when they intervene,” Dr. Reiss explained to Action For Dolphins. “They weigh up the situation and are selective about who and in which circumstances they help.” But who saves the dolphins when they find themselves in trouble?
Well, that question was answered by a video credited to Chris Denehy. The footage was uploaded to YouTube and begins with members of the Clearwater Paddling kayaking club enjoying a trip along Scotland’s coastline. However, they then see something unusual in the sea.
Apparently, a trio of young dolphins were visiting the area when one of them got into a sticky situation. It would appear that the pod’s explorations had led them into inhospitable waters. The seas were shallow, and there was also another threat to their safety.
That’s because the seaweed in the area was very dense, presenting an additional problem to the dolphins. One of the creatures had ventured too close to the vegetation, which unfortunately was so thick that the dolphin became entangled.
As a result, the poor dolphin couldn’t escape by itself. And when the Clearwater group saw this, their hearts broke for the creature. So they resolved to save it and paddled their kayaks towards its struggling body.
The footage shows one rescuer aiming their canoe at the mass of seaweed. In fact, the thick vegetation conceals everything except the dolphin’s dorsal fin, which is just about visible above the water. Nonetheless, thankfully the seaweed doesn’t stop the kayak.
By rowing into the seaweed, the canoeist uses the fore end of the kayak to separate the plants. In addition to this, they also use their paddle to loosen the vegetation that’s trapping the dolphin. And eventually, it looks like the dolphin has broken free.
Unfortunately, though, as the dolphin tries to swim away it again becomes ensnared in the surrounding seaweed. After the kayaker frees the creature a second time, the dolphin appears to understand that people are trying to help it. So, when it heads towards the other two Clearwater kayakers, it seemingly knows what to expect.
The waiting canoeists set about freeing their new friend with their own paddles, and the dolphin soon breaks away from the seaweed. The rest of the video shows the creature’s rescuers watching it swim away. But it doesn’t leave without leaping out of the water, as if to thank its saviors.
And bearing in mind the level of intelligence that dolphins have been known to display, it very well might have been expressing its gratitude! But despite the scientific evidence of the animals’ IQ, there are still countries out there that allow fishermen to hunt dolphins for food. Hopefully, these practices will be completely abolished in the future.
“A person needs to be an individual,” Dr. White told The Daily Telegraph. “If individuals count, then the deliberate killing of individuals of this sort is ethically the equivalent of deliberately killing a human being. The science has shown that individuality, consciousness, self-awareness is no longer a unique human property. That poses all kinds of challenges.”