Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The extraordinary relationship between a woman and her wild dolphin friend?

Ute grabs a ride on Mara's back as they wade through the oceans off the coast of Galway, Ireland

Gifts from below: Mara brings Ute a selection of presents from the sea bed, such as seaweed, to show her fondness for her

Meet the woman who can count a wild dolphin among her closest friends.

Dolphin expert Ute Margreff spends up to seven hours per day in chilly waters off the coast of Ireland with her dolphin pal, Mara.

For the last 12 years the German native has travelled the world studying the behaviour of solitary dolphins in the wild
But it is her incredible relationship with female dolphin Mara that brings Ute to Galway Bay where she conducts her research all year round.

Ute's relationship with her sea pal, resonates a striking similarity to the TV series and film Flipper, in which a bottlenose dolphin is the close companion of the sons of a warden at a marine preserve in Florida
The dolphin expert says: ‘I think my research will make people re-examine what they think they know about dolphins,’ explained the 43-year-old.

‘Very few marine researchers have the privilege to study up close the way I do.

‘It is important to have a certain mind-set, to be rational and open-hearted at the same time
With me, I feel like I'm getting educated by the dolphins. It's pioneering work to be learning about inter-species communication.’

When Ute was first introduced to the aquatic mammal in 2000, she said she knew that Mara was special.
Underwater fun: Ute dives underwater with Mara by her side

Underwater fun: Ute dives underwater with Mara by her side

Ute said: ‘Mara was very open, allowing our interaction to happen. From that point I knew I was going to be studying dolphins full-time.’

And according to Ute, although well known for being friendly, dolphins are as keen to learn about the human world, as she is to better understand theirs.

And Mara wants Ute to know all about the underwater world she inhabits.

Since their first meeting in 2000, Mara has introduced Ute to a range of sea life including wild dolphin pods, sunfish, porpoise and seals.

Ute said: ‘I was speaking with a seal expert with decades of experience who was absolutely amazed at the seal-human-dolphin interaction.’

Mara also brings ‘gifts’ from the seabed, including rubbish left behind by humans.

Ute said: ‘She brought me a discarded food processor recently.

‘It was like she was letting me know that she knows it was something from our world.’

The passionate researcher believes that humans should see dolphins as ‘non-human people’ who are free to make decisions about their own lives.

She said: ‘When I am in the water I have to tune into the dolphin consciousness and dolphin being and let go of my human perceptions.

‘In the beginning I was like a blank piece of paper. It's been a very natural process.

‘The long-term goal is that we get a whole new idea of how intelligent dolphins are and consider their behaviour and their communication.

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