Ode to Beggar: Southwest Florida’s famous dolphin, Beggar, dies at a young age

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Baby Dolphin at Discovery Cove ©Discovery Cove/SeaWorld

Baby Dolphin at Discovery Cove ©Discovery Cove/SeaWorld

Florida News: Death of iconic dolphin leads to questions of human-dolphin interaction

The Nokomis dolphin, Beggar, who was known to beg food from people for more than 22 years, was found dead in Sarasota on September 21st. According to Randy Wells, manager of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program,  Beggar was between 25 to 35 years old but wild male dolphins can live up to 50 years. The bottle-nose dolphin wasn’t the healthiest, however, and much of this is due to the human interaction. Humans are drawn toward dolphins, given their gentle and friendly nature, but it’s the rise of this interaction that concerns wildlife specialists.

Don’t feed dolphins

Not only is feeding dolphins dangerous for the mammals, it is also illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Penalties can be high with a fine running up to $100,000 or a jail term of one year. Scientists that studied Beggar said that in 2011, he was fed almost 200 times within 100 observation hours. People fed the dolphin everything from candy bars and potato chips to hot dogs and beer. It’s important to note that once a wild animal is fed, their behavior can change and this repeated act is dangerous to their health. If you want to see dolphins in the wild, it’s best to take a dolphin cruise.

Beggar’s health

Although an exact cause of death couldn’t be determined, there were a number of findings that pointed toward how human interaction was not good for Beggar’s health. He had a number of  broken ribs and vertebrae, which more than likely caused by colliding with boats. There was a healing wound between his dorsal fin and blow hole and also a number of healed boat wounds on his dorsal and pectoral fins. Hooks and fishing were also found in his stomach.

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How do you interact with dolphins?