If you have a pet dog, you might sometimes dress it up in a blanket, or even a sweater, in the winter time to keep them warm, but when it comes to wild dolphins, the rules tend to be a little bit different; it's not a good idea to cover them up.
A wild bottlenose dolphin was reportedly found recently with a T-shirt covering part its body in the wild ocean waters surrounding Western Australia. What looks like a harmless act to the untrained eye can actually have dire consequences, the Department of Parks and Wildlife of Western Australia said in a statement on Facebook.
Image Credit: Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia/Facebook
The department notes that the T-shirt had the very real danger of covering the dolphin’s blow hole, which would easily asphyxiate the animal. They also go on to explain that it’s very unlikely that the dolphin just happened to swim into a stray T-shirt floating in the ocean, and that it’s far more likely that someone placed the T-shirt on the animal at some point.
“It is unlikely that the dolphin swam into the singlet, so this appears to be an intentional act,” the department said in a statement on Facebook. “This could have been catastrophic for the dolphin if it had covered its blow hole and restricted its breathing. Unfortunately, the animal has not been seen since.”
“If anyone has information about the incident, or has seen the dolphin and can report its location, please contact the Parks and Wildlife Bunbury office on 9725 4300, or after hours call the Wildcare Helpline on 9474 9055.”
This behavior is punishable by law with a hefty fine of around $3,000 USD; assuming they are ever caught. It is considered animal cruelty; had the T-shirt have worked its way over the fins in any way, it could have caused complications for swimming, in addition to the existing asphyxiation risks.
There is real concern about the well-being of the dolphin photographed, and unfortunately, a dolphin with a T-shirt hasn’t been spotted since. It’s unknown if the T-shirt finally slipped off of the animal, or if something tragic may have happened to it as a result of the T-shirt being somewhere it shouldn’t have been. It is hoped that the T-shirt finally worked its way off of the animal, but there's just no way to be sure at this point in time.
Anyone who knows anything about the animal is advised to contact the Wildcare Helpline.