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Southern California boaters witness what looks like a dolphin funeral procession

Passengers aboard a Southern California whale-watching boat learned Tuesday that not every mammal sighting is a cause for celebration, and that dolphins also experience the loss of young and deal with their loss in ways that are both sad and touching. The accompanying footage shows a bottlenose dolphin, presumably a mother, carrying a dead calf on her back, while other dolphins followed close by.

The footage was provided by Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari, which operates in the Orange County, California, community of Dana Point. Capt. Steve Burkhalter, who can be heard narrating the excursion, said he had never seen anything like this. Tony Green, a passenger, likened the remarkable scene to a “funeral procession.”

The vessel’s owner, David Anderson, said he believes the calf had been dead for days, possibly a week or more, and described this as a grieving event. (Cetaceans are known to tote dead newborn offspring in a grieving manner, but the phenomenon is rarely witnessed.)

Said Green: “The last thing I expected to see today was a funeral procession, and it was a pretty profound statement about the emotions that those animals feel and how much really … alike we are.”

The same event was witnessed by passengers and crew aboard a boat from a rival landing: Dana Wharf Whale Watch. Click here to view that video.

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