An injured dolphin in China was reportedly mishandled by swimmers at Dadonghai beach on the island of Hainan, which is several hundred miles from Hong Kong. A group of male swimmers picked up the distressed dolphin out of the water to have photographs taken with it. It was also reported that their interaction with the injured marine mammal interfered with efforts from officials to help it, thus contributing to its death.
The dolphin was first reported at about 6pm as being stranded near the beach. Four and half hours later it was dead from a collapsed lung. It may have been that dolphin was in poor enough condition that it could not have been treated properly for a recovery, but how could beach goers not understand it was sick and deserved to be not be handled as a toy?
“Many tourists came up and asked to touch the dolphin, and some lifted it up to take photos while we were trying to save it,” explained one of the life guards. (Source: China Daily)
A professor of marine studies at Shandong University said the swimmers should face criminal charges. Hainan Nanhai Aquatic Wildlife Rescue Center was contacted by lifeguards for assistance, but it is not close to the area so they were redirected to a local animal protection group.
The best thing to do if you see a stranded dolphin is to call local authorities so they can find a nearby marine mammal center or animal rescue group. Only these people are informed and trained in how to deal with wild animals, so they are not injured or killed.
Of course, it is only natural to be curious and even to want to
help, but you may do more harm than good. For example, some news reports have stated that some dolphins have been rescued by tourists in America. These stories seem to give the impression that rescuing a beached dolphin is simply a matter of grabbing it by the tail and pulling it into deeper water. Doing so could break cartilage or bones in the tail or rip off a flipper. Injuries may occur in the human participants as well, because dolphins can be large and heavy. They are also very powerful, and can bite if they are agitated by the presence of people.
So, the impulse to drag a dolphin back into the ocean or sea is probably natural, but it may backfire. Most individuals are not well-informed about proper animal rescue and should not attempt it. Human-animal interactions result injuries and some deaths each year.