She carried her baby out to her ocean home in what might be familiar to sailors in wartime as a “burial at sea.” [readon]
A boatload of whale-watching tourists watched the heartbreaking scene as it unfolded off the coast of China. But it may well have been a boat just like theirs that killed the baby dolphin. A large wound could be seen on her underside, typical of what could have come from an encounter with a propeller.
As her mother carried her away from the tourist boats and further out to sea, swimming against the tide, the baby frequently slipped from her back and had to be recovered.
Where was she taking her? We don’t know the mourning rituals of marine mammals, but dolphins are highly social animals, and this young one would have been beloved not only by her mother but also by others in her family who would have been helping to raise her. Orcas and other dolphins and whales have often been seen carrying their dead – especially the young ones – for several days after they die. It’s likely, then, that this mother was carrying her baby back to the family, where they would all have had a chance to say goodbye in their own way.