Monday, January 04, 2010

Dolphins Should be Treated as "Non-Human Persons"

That alarming headline came directly from a research study by scientists looking at the cognitive capacities of dolphins. Though it sounds like something PETA might publish the study seems authentic and according to the Times, dolphins brains are second only to humans even outstripping greater apes when it comes to intelligence.

Now I am no fan of animal rights folks. Most I have met are certifiably wacky, but when it comes to dolphins, that is a different matter. I had the distinct privileged of working with these amazing animals in several live performance venues and in films. They are indeed not just clever, but they have distinct personalities and even understand humor. Humor? Indeed.

To illustrate my point, here is a story that is true and telling.

While working at a sea life park directing several non-animal shows, I spent a lot of time passing the dolphin tanks. I got in the habit of stopping to watch, and the animals regularly popped up from the water to check me out. I sincerely believe their smiles are genuine expressions of their attitudes, and they were not present every day.

They would often come over to the side of the pool and even let me pet them a few times. I had no fish or other treats, so this was voluntary on their part. What's more they seem to recognize that I was unassuming and laid back. A quality not present in some of the folks I dealt with.

The case in point was when a business associate accompanied me. He was dressed in a suit and was pretty much out of place at the laid back park. The dolphins noticed this and very accurately managed to squirt a stream of water onto his freshly pressed trousers, missing me and the others standing around the pool. They then quickly retreated to the far side and bobbed up to watch the reaction.

Everyone but the man in the suit was laughing, including the dolphins with their taunting chuckles.

This happened time and again and they were uncanny in finding the exact person who would be most ruffled by a splash. To me that was a sign of not just perception, but the abstract principal of humor expressed in a slapstick manner. Now what was that about Flipper being unrealistic?

1 comment:

Lex Divinia said...

"So long, and thanks for all the fish."