Animal Chaplain March 2024

March is Dolphin Awareness Month.  There are dozens of species of dolphin.  Some of the best known are bottlenose dolphin, killer whale, beluga whale, pilot whale, and spinner dolphin.    

Dolphins are marine mammals.  They breathe air through a blowhole.  Probably the most distinctive characteristic of these animals is that they perceive their surroundings via echolocation.  Specifically, they emit short bursts of pulses that we humans might describe as “clicks.”  By noticing the echoes of their clicks bouncing off objects, dolphins obtain detailed information about who and what is around them.  This echolocation is so powerful that a dolphin can distinguish, at a great distance, between a golf ball and a ping-pong ball by noticing the difference in density. 

Dolphins are intelligent, highly social, and playful.  They experience suffering when they are exploited.  Two award-winning documentaries detailing that exploitation are The Cove and Blackfish.  While we might be tempted to participate in experiences such as swimming with dolphins, viewing them in captivity, or taking a boat ride to see them, Encyclopedia Britannica explains that these activities are harmful to the marine mammals.  The most respectful and non-harmful way to see dolphins in the Jacksonville is to visit the beaches at the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve.  Take a pair of powerful binoculars, a camera with telephoto lens, or a spotting scope.  With a little luck, you might catch sight of a bottlenose dolphin.  Happy Dolphin Awareness Month.