CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- You may have recently seen the viral video of the dolphins at Stono River.
The adorable creatures seemed happy as can be with their mouths open wide in what looks like a smile. However, experts from the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network say otherwise.
Lauren Rust is the Executive Director of the organization. She claims this behavior stems from dolphins becoming accustomed to being hand fed by humans.
“Wild dolphins do not approach boats with their mouths wide open,” says Rust. “That’s typical behavior of a begging dolphin.”
Rust explains that hand-feeding dolphins is not only illegal; long-term it can seriously harm or even kill them.
“It’s just a cycle. People feed the dolphins, then they become conditioned to boats and humans,” says Rust.
This cycle makes the animals come up to the boats more often; leaving them vulnerable to boat strikes or entanglement in fishing gear.
Rust also claims the food that people feed them typically is not good for wild animals.
If you are ever approached by a dolphin that’s begging, she says the best thing to do is ignore it. It will discourage the behavior and help break the cycle if they aren’t rewarded.
“Try not to reach out and touch them, feed them, or even follow them. You can still enjoy them, but keep them wild” says Rust.
If you’d like to get involved with the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network, you can click here.