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Saving the Dolphins

When dolphins like these are in danger, this amazing man comes to their rescue.

By Lauren Tarshis
Lexiles: 600L-700L
Guided Reading Level: M
DRA Level: 20
Topic: Technology,

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Think and Read: Problem and Solution

In this article, a man works hard to solve a difficult problem. How does he do it?

Hardy Jones Productions

Hardy Jones got the call early in the morning: Two dolphins were in trouble. They’d been caught in the Caribbean Sea, near Nicaragua (nik-uh-RAH-gwuh). The men who caught them had wanted to sell them to a hotel. Hotel guests would have been able to swim with the dolphins. But the deal didn’t work out. So the men left the dolphins to die in a filthy tank.

“I was on a plane as fast as I could move,” Jones says.

The dolphins, named Nica and Blue Fields, were weak, starving, and scared. Leaders in Nicaragua had asked the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to help. Still, no one knew whether they would live.

Two dolphins were in big trouble. Some men had caught them in the ocean near Nicaragua (nik-uh-RAH-gwuh). The men wanted to sell the dolphins to a hotel. There, guests could swim with the dolphins. But the hotel didn’t take the dolphins. So the men left the dolphins to die in a filthy tank.

The dolphins were named Nica and Blue Fields. Leaders in Nicaragua asked a group that helps animals to try to save Nica and Blue Fields. The group came up with a plan to rescue them from the tank. Then the helpers would take the dolphins on two boat rides and a helicopter trip. They would bring the dolphins back to where they had been caught.

But would the dolphins live through this?

Hardy Jones got a phone call early one day: Two dolphins were in trouble. They’d been caught in the ocean, near Nicaragua (nik-uh-RAH-gwuh). The men who caught them had wanted to sell them to a hotel. There, guests would have been able to swim with the dolphins. But the deal didn’t work out. So the men left the dolphins to die in a filthy tank.

“I was on a plane as fast as I could move,” Jones says.

The dolphins were named Nica and Blue Fields. They were weak, hungry, and scared. Leaders in Nicaragua had asked the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to help. But no one knew whether the animals would live.

Hardy Jones got the phone call from the Nicaraguan government early in the morning: Two dolphins were in terrible trouble. The animals had been captured in the Caribbean Sea, 20 miles off the coast of Nicaragua. The men who caught them had been hoping to sell them to a resort hotel with a “swim with the dolphins” program. But the deal had fallen apart, and the men had left the dolphins to die in a filthy tank.

“I was on a plane as fast as I could move,” Jones says.

By the time Jones arrived, the two dolphins—he would soon name them Nica and Blue Fields—had been trapped for two weeks. The government of Nicaragua had called in a team from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to help. The dolphins were in desperate condition—weak, starving, and terrified. The scientists from WSPA worked to stabilize the dolphins, feeding them fish filled with nutrients and comforting them with caresses and gentle words.

But the situation was grim. It was clear to all that the dolphins would not survive even a few days more in the toxic pool.

The only hope was a daring mission that would put the dolphins at great risk. WSPA scientists, along with soldiers from the Nicaraguan military, would take the dolphins on an extraordinary journey by boat and helicopter back to the spot in the Caribbean Sea where they had been captured.

Jones would have a critical role on this mission: filming it. For the past 39 years, Jones has made films that show how human greed and carelessness are threatening dolphins, one of Earth’s most intelligent and sensitive creatures. Jones’s films have helped save the lives of millions of dolphins, earning him a nickname worthy of a superhero: the Dolphin Defender.

Jones’s camera was running as Nica and Blue Fields were carefully hoisted out of the water on slings. It took four men to carry each of the more than 300-pound animals to a waiting boat. The dolphins were placed on padded trays. The team slathered them with cream to protect them from the glaring sun and cooled them with seawater to prevent them from overheating.

Nica closed her eyes and seemed to surrender to her fate. Blue Fields made quiet, high-pitched whistling noises.

“He’s crying,” Jones said softly.

Nobody knew if the dolphins would survive the journey. Whatever happened to them, though, Jones would make sure that the world knew their terrible story.

JIM MCMAHON/MAPMAN®

Dolphin Habitat

Hardy Jones named the dolphins Nica and Blue Fields after the area off the coast of Nicaragua where they were captured.

The Dolphin Defender

There was one way to save them. But it was risky. WSPA scientists and soldiers from Nicaragua would try to rescue the dolphins. Then the animals would ride two boats and a helicopter back to where they’d been caught.

Jones had a critical role: He would film it all. Jones has made films about dolphins for almost 40 years. The films show how humans are harming them. They have also helped save millions of these smart and sensitive creatures. His nickname is the Dolphin Defender.

Jones filmed Nica and Blue Fields being carefully lifted out of the water on fabric. It took four men to carry each of the animals to a boat. The men covered the dolphins with a kind of sunscreen.

Nica closed her eyes. She didn’t fight. But Blue Fields made quiet whistling noises. “He’s crying,” Jones said softly.

Even if the dolphins didn’t survive, Jones would show the world their story.

Filming the Rescue

A man named Hardy Jones filmed the rescue on his movie camera. He makes movies about dolphins and the bad things that can happen to them. When people see his movies, they try to help the dolphins. Millions of dolphins have been saved because of Jones’s movies.

Jones filmed Nica and Blue Fields being lifted out of the water on a piece of fabric. It took four men to carry each of the animals to a boat.

Nica closed her eyes when she was taken out of the water. She didn’t fight. But Blue Fields made quiet whistling noises. “He’s crying,” Jones said.

The Dolphin Defender

There was one way to save them. But it was risky. WSPA scientists and soldiers from Nicaragua would try to rescue the dolphins. Then the animals would ride two boats and a helicopter. They would go back to where they’d been caught.

Jones had a critical role: He would film it all. Jones has made films about dolphins for almost 40 years. The films show how humans are hurting them. People who see his films have helped save millions of these creatures. His nickname is the Dolphin Defender.

Jones filmed Nica and Blue Fields being lifted out of the water on fabric. It took four men to carry each of the animals to a boat. The men covered the dolphins with a kind of sunscreen.

Nica closed her eyes. She didn’t fight. But Blue Fields made quiet whistling noises. “He’s crying,” Jones said softly.

Even if the dolphins didn’t live, Jones would show the world their story.

An Extraordinary Bond

In the late 1970s, when Jones began making films, little was known about dolphins in the wild. Jones, a passionate scuba diver, had long dreamed of swimming with dolphins at sea in their natural environment, but experts said it could not be done. They told Jones that if he got too close, the dolphins would flee or perhaps turn violent.

But Jones had heard about a pod—an extended family—of friendly spotted dolphins often seen in a particular site about 70 miles off the coast of Florida. A treasure hunter helped him find these dolphins. From the moment Jones entered the water, he was welcomed into their midst.

In fact, the dolphins seemed as curious about Jones as he was about them. They swam up to him, studying him closely. When he removed his T-shirt and let it float in the water, a dolphin grabbed it and swam away. Moments later, the dolphin reappeared and dropped the shirt in front of Jones. “It was clear to me that he knew the shirt belonged to me,” Jones recalls.

Jones was amazed by the animals’ intelligence and the closeness of the group. The dolphins doted on one another, cuddling close together and stroking each other with their fins. Mothers lavished attention on their young. The animals seemed to communicate with each other constantly, in a language of clicks, whistles, and high-pitched shrieks that vibrated through the water.

Those early experiences helped Jones form an extraordinary bond with these dolphins. It wasn’t long before he decided to leave his work in television to devote himself full-time to protecting them and other creatures of the sea.

iStock/Getty Images

Should You Swim With a Dolphin?

For humans, swimming with a dolphin can be fun. But experts say these wild animals belong in the ocean, not a pool or tank.

6 Million Dead

When Jones started his work, thousands of dolphins were dying every year. The biggest problem was the tuna-fishing industry. In the ocean, tuna swim beneath dolphins. Because of this, the nets used by tuna boats would also trap dolphins. Since the late 1950s, more than 6 million dolphins have died this way.

Another problem was the brutal dolphin hunts in Japan. The youngest and cutest dolphins were shipped off to aquariums to perform for humans. The rest were killed.

Jones went to Japan to make a film about these cruel events. His film was shown around the world. People became outraged. Many fishermen stopped their hunts. Thousands of dolphins were able to live.

“It was the first time I realized how powerful a man with a camera could be,” Jones has said.

Jones made another film about the dolphins dying in tuna nets. Many people who saw the film stopped buying tuna. Because of this, American tuna companies changed how they fish. Today, almost all tuna sold by these companies is “dolphin safe.”


6 Million Dead

When Jones started his work, thousands of dolphins were dying every year. The biggest problem was how tuna fish were caught. In the ocean, tuna swim beneath dolphins. Because of this, the nets used to catch tuna would also trap dolphins. Since the 1950s, millions of dolphins have died from the nets.

Another problem was the brutal dolphin hunts in Japan. The youngest and cutest dolphins had to perform for humans in aquariums. The rest were killed.

Jones made a film about these cruel events. When people saw it, they became outraged. Many fishermen stopped their hunts. This saved thousands of dolphins.

“It was the first time I realized how powerful a man with a camera could be,” Jones has said.

Jones made another film about the dolphins dying in tuna nets. Many people who saw the film stopped buying tuna. Because of this, American tuna companies don’t hurt dolphins when they fish.

6 Million Dead

When Jones started his work, tens of thousands of dolphins were dying every year. The biggest problem was the tuna-fish industry. In the ocean, tuna tend to swim beneath dolphins, so the nets used by tuna boats entangled dolphins. The dolphins, which must surface to breathe every 10 minutes, suffocated. Some tuna boats killed hundreds of dolphins during each trip; since the late 1950s, tuna fishing has killed more than 6 million dolphins.

Even more brutal were the dolphin hunts taking place in Japan, which has a long tradition of hunting and eating dolphins. Fishermen would drive pods of dolphins close to the shore and trap them. The youngest and best-looking dolphins were separated, loaded on to boats, and shipped off to aquariums to perform for humans. The rest were slaughtered for their meat, or killed so they wouldn’t compete with the fishermen for fish.

News of these hunts led Jones to travel to Japan, where he captured horrifying scenes of slaughter on film. Even today, the memory of these scenes causes Jones’s voice to shake with anger and sadness.

The film he took of these hunts was shown on television around the world, sparking outrage and protests. Many of the villages sharply reduced or even eliminated their hunts, and thousands of dolphins were undoubtedly spared.

“It was the first time I realized just how powerful a man with a camera could be,” Jones has said.

In the coming years, Jones would make more films. One, about dolphins dying in the tuna nets, led to massive protests against tuna companies like StarKist and Bumble Bee. Tens of thousands of people saw the film and stopped buying tuna. They wrote furious letters to the companies’ leaders and demanded that more be done to protect dolphins. This public outcry led American tuna companies to change their fishing practices. Today, almost all tuna sold by American companies is “dolphin safe.”

brown bird design

Truly Happy?

But dolphins are still in danger. This is because of ocean pollution and hunting. Fishing too much hurts them too. (See “Dolphins in Danger,” above.)Another problem is that so many wild dolphins are caught and forced to be in dolphin shows and swim-with-dolphins programs at hotels.

“Come for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!” reads the website of a popular Florida hotel. The photos show excited guests riding on dolphins. The animals appear to be smiling with joy.

But dolphins don’t smile the way humans do. Their mouths turn up naturally. It doesn’t mean they’re happy. Even a dolphin that’s in pain looks like it’s smiling.

Some aquariums take excellent care of their dolphins. But in the wild, dolphins swim up to 100 miles a day. They form friendships that can last for years. Could they ever be happy in a tank with just a few other dolphins? More than half of wild dolphins die soon after being caught.

Dolphin Dangers

Dolphins are in danger for many reasons. Many of them are caught in the ocean. Some of them die because of the pollution in the ocean.

When dolphins are kept at hotels and parks, some of them are treated well. But it’s hard to say if they’re happy. They may look like they’re smiling, but that’s just because their mouths are always turned up. Dolphins like to swim for miles in the ocean. Can they really be happy living in a tank? Maybe not. This could be why so many dolphins die after they’ve been caught in the ocean.

Truly Happy?

But dolphins are still in danger. This is because of ocean pollution and hunting. Fishing too much hurts them too. (See “Dolphins in Danger,” above.) Another problem is that so many wild dolphins are caught. Then they are forced to be in dolphin shows and swim-with-dolphins programs at hotels.

Those hotels often show photos of excited guests riding on dolphins. The animals seem to be smiling with joy.

But dolphins don’t smile the way humans do. Their mouths turn up without the dolphins even trying. It doesn’t mean they’re happy. Even a dolphin that’s in pain looks like it’s smiling.

Some aquariums take great care of their dolphins. But in the wild, dolphins swim up to 100 miles a day. They have many friends. Could they ever be happy in a tank with just a few other dolphins? More than half of wild dolphins die soon after being caught.

100 Miles a Day

Dolphins continue to face serious threats, however, from ocean pollution, climate change, and overfishing to continued hunting in parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. (It is illegal to hunt or capture dolphins in U.S. waters.) But perhaps the fastest-growing threat is the capture of wild dolphins, like Nica and Blue Fields, for dolphin shows and swim-with-dolphins programs at resorts and hotels.

“Come for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!” proclaims the website of a popular Florida resort. “Talk, touch, play, and swim with our gentle and exquisite bottlenose dolphins.” The accompanying photographs feature excited guests clinging to dolphins, which appear to be smiling with delight.

But such images are deceptive. Dolphins don’t smile as humans do. Their mouths are naturally upturned; even a dolphin lying dead wears the same “smiling” expression of a dolphin carrying a tourist on its back.

Certainly some aquariums provide excellent care for their captive dolphins. But in the wild, dolphins swim up to 100 miles in a single day. They form friendships that can last for decades. It’s hard to imagine that such a free-roaming and social creature could ever be content in a concrete and Plexiglas pen. Indeed, 53 percent of wild dolphins die within three months of being captured.

Nica and Blue Fields were spared that fate, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the WSPA and the Nicaraguan government. The dolphins had survived the first boat ride and a helicopter trip. Now they were on another boat, speeding across the Caribbean Sea.

The boat stopped near the place where the dolphins had been captured. Jones’s camera was running as the team released the dolphins off the side of the boat.

Nica went first. The moment she hit the water, she took off. When Blue Fields hit the water, he seemed confused, as though he had just woken up from a nightmare. At last, he swam off. Hopefully, they would find their family. But would they ever forget how they had suffered?

It’s impossible to know. Thanks to Jones, though, the world will not forget the story of Nica and Blue Fields. The film footage he shot of their ordeal has already been seen by millions of people.

The film reveals how humans can threaten these dazzling animals.

And it proves that we can help them too.

Shutterstock.com

The Joy of Freedom

In the wild, dolphins swim up to 100 miles in one day. They also form friendships that last many years.

The Rescue

Nica and Blue Fields survived the first boat ride and the helicopter trip. Now they were on a second boat. It stopped near the place where the dolphins had been captured. It was time for them to go.

The moment Nica hit the water, she took off. But Blue Fields seemed confused. It was as though he had just woken up from a nightmare. At last, he swam away. Hopefully, they would find their family. But would they ever forget how they had suffered?

Thanks to Jones, the world will not forget Nica and Blue Fields. His film of their ordeal has been seen by millions. It shows how humans can hurt these amazing animals. And it proves that we can help them too.

Back Home

Finally, Nica and Blue Fields were brought to the place where they had been caught. It was time for them to go.

As soon as Nica hit the water, she swam away. But Blue Fields seemed confused. He acted like he had just woken up from a bad dream. At last, he swam away too. Hopefully, they would find their family. But would they ever forget all the bad things that had happened?

Because of Jones, the world will not forget Nica and Blue Fields. Millions of people have seen his movie about their ordeal. His movie shows how humans can hurt these amazing animals. And it proves that we can help them too.  

Nica and Blue Fields made it through the first boat ride and the helicopter trip. Now they were on a second boat. It stopped near the place where the dolphins had been caught. It was time for them to go.

As soon as Nica hit the water, she took off. But Blue Fields seemed confused. He acted like he had just woken up from a bad dream. At last, he swam away. Hopefully, they would find their family. But would they ever forget all of their troubles?

Thanks to Jones, the world will not forget Nica and Blue Fields. His film of their ordeal has been seen by millions. It shows how humans can hurt these amazing animals. And it proves that we can help them too.