Sunday, May 23, 2004

Dolphin as healer

Nutan Shukla

CONTACT with animals, both wild and tame, has long been beneficial to humans. But manís response to animals is often far from generous. For instance, the cooperation between dolphins and fishermen has been chronicled for centuries by ancient Greek and Roman poets, who have written in detail about the torchlit fishing expeditions aided by these marine mammals whichíre related to the whales. In present-day fishing expeditions, however, many dolphins get caught and die.

Modern commercial tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean poses a grave threat to spinner and bridled dolphins. Traditionally, they associate themselves with yellow fin tuna that swim in large schools beneath the dolphins in a symbiotic alliance. Tuna fish benefit from the dolphinís ability to find prey by echolocation but it also acts as an early warning system for dolphins that monitor any panic moves that a tuna shoal makes at the approach of sharks.

Their symbiotic relationship has made humans realise that if the tuna are there, dolphins canít be far behind.

Human beings benefit from dolphins in many ways. In the Brazilian city of Laguna, fishermen wanting to catch the red mullet, stand in shallow, Atlantic waters and watch bottle-nosed dolphins, their fishing partners. Since the water here is quite muddy, it is difficult to spot their favourite fish. Thus they rely on the dolphins.

Signals from these marine mammals are easily understood by waiting fishermen. If one dolphin suddenly sinks, it means that a shoal has been located and it is about to herd it towards the shore. Soon the men get ready with their nets and wait for the dolphins to surface and swim towards the shore. This means the fishermen can now cast their circular nets on the shoal. While the nets are being hauled in after the catch, dolphins feast on the mullets that have escaped.

Dolphins also help humans with their healing powers. In Florida, captive dolphins play and communicate with autistic and disabled children, who soon become calmer and happier than before their swim. In the wild, too, these cetaceans play a healing role. All along the coast of Britain and Ireland there are various places in the shallows where wild dolphins are regularly seen playing with humans, leaping over boats and even nudging them.

There are also reports that dolphins have helped in healing people suffering from deep depression. Researchers are now convinced about the animalís special therapeutic influence . Contact with these animals has a powerful emotional effect on mentally ill patients and swimming with dolphins is more uplifting than taking anti-depression drugs.

It is believed that the feeling of unconditional love and acceptance that dolphins give stimulates production of a protein, known as interferon, that boosts the immune system. It is also a fact that being intensely happy induces the body to produce endorphins, a natural pain-killing substance.