An Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin was discovered on the coast of Gujwa-eup with a young calf in tow.
However, the calf was discovered to be dead and showed signs of advanced decay.
So the question remains - why was the mother dolphin carrying her dead calf?
Todd Thacker has the story.
This is the northeast coast at Gujwa-eup, Jeju City.
A pod of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins move through the emerald water with ease.
One member of the pod is pushing a white object on its back. With great effort, it keeps the object above the waves while swimming along.
As the object sinks again and again, the dolphin repeatedly pushes it back up for air.
The object of this dolphin’s efforts, sadly, is a dead calf.
By the time it was discovered by researchers, the young dolphin showed clear signs of decomposition.
It appears to have died shortly after birth.
Scientists estimate that the mother dolphin has been carrying it on her back for over two weeks.
There have been other similar discoveries of a mother dolphin carrying a dead calf in Jeju waters, once in 2017 and 2018.
Rare cases such as this are observed not just with the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, but other species of dolphins as well.
Dolphins use all their strength to protect injured, or sometimes already deceased, members of their pods from harm.
Experts say that this behavior indicates that dolphin pods have an advanced social structure that includes a strong instinct to defend the group.
Kim Byung-yeop / Professor, Jeju National University Dolphin Research Team
(Dolphins) have an IQ of about 80 or 90. This is sufficient for ideation (and making decisions). In terms of socialization, it can be seen as a familial or a parental bond.
<인터뷰 : 김병엽 / 제주대학교 돌고래연구팀 교수>
(돌고래의) 아이큐가 80~90 정도 된다고 하거든요. 이 정도면 웬만하면 어떤 생각이라던가 어떤 (판단을 하기에) 충분하다고 보죠. 사회성에 대해서 가족애라든지 모성애라든지 이런 게 짙게 남아있는 상황이라고 볼 수 있는 거죠.
Images of this mother dolphin being unable to accept the death of her calf are truly heartbreaking, and by extension, instructive.
Todd Thacker, KCTV