Feeding dolphins is a problem that most tourists seem to be completely unaware of. Even when told of the dangers that it presents to these ocean-dwellers, people persist in their thinking that just a few bites won’t hurt. But the problem lies in the fact that every tourist is thinking the same way and the dolphins end up eating “just a few bites” from dozens of people every day.
Worse yet, some of these people are so lacking in common sense that they feed dolphins things like hot dogs, beer, cupcakes and all manner of strange things. This isn’t exactly the healthiest diet for a human, let alone a dolphin. Now, the world’s most famous begging dolphin has been found dead, a victim of what many think is that tourist tendency to feed him.
Beggar is the dolphin’s name and if you’ve ever been dolphin-spotting in Florida you’ve probably heard of him. He’s been around for years, living just off the coast and being all-too-happy to approach any and all humans that happen out into the waters, looking for his next meal. Scientists have used Beggar as a subject of research for some time and he is by far the most studied individual wild dolphin in the world. He lived just 20 years of the 30 to 50 years that is usual for bottlenose dolphins.
Those looking into his death blame tourists feeding him. In the end, Beggar was observed to have adjusted his behavior to the begging lifestyle. He stopped actively looking for food on his own, stopped roaming further than his small bay and cut off contact with other dolphins. All these unusual behaviors are believed to have contributed to his death.
Cause of death is still inconclusive and scientists are looking into it further. Beggar’s body showed many of the signs of association with humans, including scars from boat propellers and things in his stomach that certainly didn’t belong there. And while it may be too late for Beggar, perhaps people can learn a lesson from this.
Dolphins can’t be thought of as pets and their lives risked simply because people want to treat them like tourist attractions. In order for them to thrive, they need to stay true to their instincts and part of being able to do that is to not have humans interfering with them.