Dolphins are voluntary breathers. That means dolphins make a choice each time to breathe, unlike ourselves, as we breathe without thinking. There are stories of dolphins in captivity and their life span is shortened dramatically. Most live only two years. The man who trained Flipper experienced this with one of his beloved dolphins that worked in the filming of the show. She came to him, looked deeply into his eyes, took a breath and went to the floor of the tank refusing to surface. The theory is they commit suicide. They take one last breath and sink to the bottom refusing to surface and take another breath. This is unlike humans, which when drowning we cannot control our breathing and we take that last breath and our lungs are filled with water. For dolphins, when they die they have dry lungs because they can choose not to breathe.
It speaks volumes about captivity and their sense of losing that expansive playground in the ocean. I wonder about this regular choice that is before them to live, to breathe. I wonder if making this choice intentionally many times a day impacts the quality of how they live their life and reduces the propensity to take it for granted.
Photos provided with permission from Atmoji @ WildQuest