Having the opportunity to work closely with dolphins in a holistic environment has been such a blessing. One aspect that I have appreciated the most is seeing the female dolphins creating life. They go through the process of mating, becoming pregnant, gestation, raising their calf and then weaning them so that they may be strong and independent dolphins.
This process, for me, reminds me of the realness of dolphins and brings them out of the mystical branding that often occurs as humans think of dolphins. As magical as they are and as boundless as their energy is, the magnificence is heightened in seeing the females bring up their young and the distinct reality that that evokes. I am always reminded of this when I see a females pregnant belly or her mammary glands. These physical changes to the dolphin’s perfectly streamlined body are a compelling reminder of how much we have in common with dolphins.
Here is a video of Maggie and Ayla with their young, Paris and Hector nursing.
Females dedicate their lives to having and raising young. Females are mated with, often aggressively at the appropriate time in their cycle. While it seems that they have preferences in large, strong, and smart males that are proficient in hunting, the females don’t always have a choice in who they are mating with. In many mammalian species, females and males raise their young together, with dolphins, this is not the case. Their pregnancies last about 12 months and their calves nurse for another 12 months. During this time, in the wild, the mothers feed very little, as they need to maintain constant focus on their young, so that they do not become shark bait or stray too far. It then takes the mamas about a year or so to wean the babies and a bit more time before they are ready to conceive again. They are heroes! Actually, all mamas are heroes in my book!