Tourists watch heartbreaking scene of dolphin carrying its dead baby
In a rare mourning ritual, a dolphin was pictured carrying its dead calf's body on its back in the sea near Qinzhou in China's Guangxi Province.
The emotional scene was watched by a boat full of tourists who saw the dead calf with a large gash, approximately a foot long, across its belly during a tour.
According to the Daily Mail, this could have been caused by the propeller of a boat, and, ironically, maybe even one of the many that take tourists on dolphin-watching trips.
The dolphin was believed to be a mother moving her dead baby away from the shore to lay it to rest in deeper water.
Wang Bin, a tourist who took the sad photo above told Rex Features: 'Initially we only spotted an adult dolphin carrying a baby swimming, but when getting close we found the baby had already died with a large opening on its belly. The mother must be heartbroken, but insisted on carrying her baby home.'
Wang said during the three minutes that they were close to the dolphin, they watched the baby slide from its mother's back several times but each time she would dive again to pick up her baby and keep going.
'No matter how close our boat was, the mother neglected us and picked up her baby again and again from the water and kept going,' Wand added.
'When we landed on the ground, we felt no excitement, but in deep sorrow, deeply sombre. I was wondering where the mother was going to take the baby. Where in the vast sea could be their safe home.'
Researchers have observed dolphins carrying or pushing their calves that have died in their infancy and say they sometimes stay with their dead baby for several days.
A similar mourning ritual has been seen among whales, chimps, gorillas and elephants, and although experts are reluctant to attribute human emotions to animals, dolphins have shown awareness of mortality and may even contemplate their deaths.
Researcher Joan Gonzalvo of the Tethys Research Institute in Italy told the Daily Mail that he once witnessed a pod of dolphins trying to help a dying calf by lifting it to the surface and frantically swimming around the sick animal.
'My hypothesis is that the sick animal was kept company and given support, and when it died the group had done their job, ' he said.
'In this case they had already assumed death would eventually come – they were prepared.'
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