The Dodo Archive
Mother Dolphin Kills Her Own Baby To Spare Her A Life In Captivity
This bottlenose dolphin knows both the freedom of living in the open ocean and the hopelessness of being trapped inside an aquarium's tiny pool. That may be why she just did something unthinkable, sparing her baby from a lifetime in captivity.
Lulu, as she is known, was one of countless wild dolphins rounded up in Japan's infamous Taiji cove in recent years. But rather than be killed for meat, as most are, she had been handed a sentence that was arguably even worse - to spend the remainder of her life breeding and performing as a living exhibit in the Nagoya aquarium.
Though unable to save herself from that fate, in a way, she saved her daughter.
On September 24, the Nagoya aquarium announced online that Lulu had given birth to her first baby. Dolphins are typically very doting and protective of their offspring, but it soon became clear that Lulu felt differently about having brought a baby into the world of captivity.
Photos showed the newborn with rake marks along her body, injuries believed to have inflicted by Lulu. Then, just four days after being born, the baby was found dead.
Though the exact cause of the newborn dolphin's death is unclear, Laura Bridgeman, from the International Marine Mammal Project, says that captivity itself is likely to blame - raising the possibility that it was an act of mercy on the part of Lulu, knowing what awaited her.
"Aquarium officials like to explain this as the result of first-time mothers who simply don't know how to be good parents. But that logic is highly questionable," Bridgeman writes. "A more likely reason for this type of violence lies within the traumatic scars of being separated from one's family, watching and listening to them die one by one, and being removed permanently from one's home. Or it could be that Lulu did not want her child to endure the endless pain and suffering of captivity."
We may never know for certain the rationale behind Lulu's actions, but regardless, the death rate among infant dolphins is much higher in captivity. That's reason enough to empty the tanks and restore Lulu's freedom, and the freedom of all those other like her.