While they are certainly playful and amusing creatures, there is more to dolphins than just Flipper. Dolphins are among the most intelligent animals in the world, and are found in just about every ocean around the globe. Types of them are even found in some of the major rivers, including the Amazon River in Brazil and the Ganges River in India. Yet they, like so many marine creatures, are threatened by human activity and in many ways are at our mercy for survival. As an elegant way to raise awareness and introduce the masses to the beauty and importance of the dolphin, many vacation resorts offer people the opportunity to go swimming with dolphins to encourage environmental conservation.
In comparison to the rest of oceanic life, dolphins are a relatively new species, having evolved just 10 million year ago. In a strange twist, dolphins are actually the descendants of land animals who evolved into the water, as opposed to most life forms which evolved from the water. Scientists are sure of this evolutionary path as dolphins still have small vestigial pelvic bones and leg buds as part of their skeletal structure.
The word "dolphin" comes from the ancient Greek word "delphys," which means womb and thus was probably chosen for the unusual fact that dolphins, like whales, are mammals and carry their young in their wombs before birth. Dolphins are known for their unique social behavior and acute intelligence. There have even been reports of dolphins displaying culture and learned behavior, phenomenon thought to be unique to human intelligence, by teaching their young to use tools for food searching and props and decorations for mating rituals.
Such intelligence, combined with their characteristic playfulness and their friendly nature, is what makes swimming with dolphins such a special experience. However, many types of dolphins today are endangered, with several types already gone beyond bringing back. For example, a study done in 2006 was unable to locate any of the Yangtze River dolphin, making it technically extinct.
The difficult fact to realize is that humans are responsible in large part for the threat these magnificent creature are now facing. From the spilling of toxic waste and trash into the oceans to runoff containing dangerous pesticides to accidental collisions with boat propellers, many of the dolphin's main enemies are the careless byproducts of human life. Dolphins are often the accidental victims of fishermen's nets, when they are hauled in with catches of tuna. Unfortunately, dolphins are also hunted for food in many areas of the world and are killed in mass for commercial sale.
The people of the world today have the power to stop the casual and mostly unintentional destruction of these fabulous creatures, and this is why swimming with dolphins is so powerful. It is obvious from that most of the ways we hurt dolphins are unintentional and passive, making them unnecessary victims. By offering people a chance to spend personal time with these awesome animals in their natural habitats, resorts are encouraging people to get to know them and put a face on all the things that live in the sea. And once you have been kissed by a dolphin, nuzzled by a dolphin, and ferried around on the back of a dolphin, it is hard to ignore the effect we are having on them. So if you get a chance, do not miss the opportunity to go swimming with dolphins, as it is a very special and educational experience. The hope is that it will not be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but if our careless treatment of their environment doesn't stop, unfortunately it might be.