[MARMAM] Do bottlenose dolphin females fight and sometimes kill infants?

Naomi Rose naomi at awionline.org
Sun Aug 30 07:44:37 PDT 2015

Dear MARMAMers:

A weeks-old calf has died at Planète Sauvage, a dolphinarium in France. Here is the short press item on this death:


For those who don't speak French, the article says:

A dolphin calf died following a fight between two adult females Friday in Port-Saint-Père. She was born on August 16.
"When a female gives birth, it is always a risky life stage," warned Martin Boye, scientific director of Wild Planet (Planète Sauvage).
"We placed the mother Tarel and her female calf in the nursery pool with another female. The whole team was mobilized to monitor this first-time birth. Friday, before the afternoon performance, there was an altercation between the two females," reported Boye. "The little one was struck. It was immediately fatal to her. The veterinary examination confirmed this," he added, clearly upset.

According to my sources, Boye also claimed that the death of this calf was "totally normal" and that females killing calves (accidentally or deliberately, is not clear) occurs in free-ranging populations. He also said that a video from a free-ranging population recording this kind of calf death exists, but hasn't been seen outside the scientific community.

I am aware that bottlenose dolphins kill harbor porpoises and that male bottlenose dolphins kill calves; however, I have never heard of females killing calves, accidentally or deliberately, during fights. Is this something that has been observed in free-ranging populations and if so, does video exist of it?

Thank you to the community for any information relevant to this situation.


Marine Mammal Scientist

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