Dolphin Fell in Love With Trainer in Bizarre But Heartbreaking Story (VIDEO)

dolphin loveCan animals fall in love? We bond with our pets and we see how much they love and depend on us. But I'm talking about romantic love. Can an animal have a love affair -- with a human? A scientist and his assistant taught a dolphin how to speak, and then the most surprising thing happened: The dolphin appeared to fall in love with the trainer. They didn't mean for it to happen, but it did. What happened next will utterly break your heart -- and infuriate you.

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In 1965, neurologist Dr. John C. Lilly set about to teach a 6-year-old dolphin named Peter how to speak English. He set up Peter and his assistant, Margaret Howe, in a flooded villa in the Virgin Islands. There, Margaret lived with Peter, eating, sleeping, and playing with him every day. While Margaret tried to teach Peter to say a few words, he became increasingly playful with her. She would rub his belly. After four weeks, she noticed that Peter was becoming sexually aroused around her. She wrote in her journal:

I find that his desires are hindering our relationship. He jams himself again and again against my legs, circles around me, is inclined to nibble, and is generally so excited that he cannot control his attitude toward me.

Peter became so aggressive, sometimes, that Margaret would send him into a pen with two female dolphins to socialize and blow off steam. But then she found another way to satisfy him so he would cooperate with the study.

"Peter is courting me or something very similar. He presents his tummy and genital area for stroking. Perhaps this is his way of involving me in some form of sex play without scaring me away," Margaret wrote. She later said, "That relationship of having to be together sort of turned into really enjoying being together, and wanting to be together, and missing him when he wasn’t there. I did have a very close encounter with -- I can’t even say a dolphin again -- Peter."

Okay ... so it looks like Margaret had strong feelings for Peter, too, though she's very clear that it was NOT sexual for her. Also, they did not have sexual intercourse. Still, this wasn't entirely a one-sided affair.

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Just when Peter was enjoying his relationship with Margaret, he was cruelly yanked away from his love. Funding for the project was pulled, and Peter was sent to another lab with much less privacy and, worse, no contact with his beloved. Within weeks he committed suicide by refusing to breathe, and he sank to the bottom of his tank.

You could suggest that Peter just didn't adapt well to his new environment -- or you could say he died of a broken heart. Either way, it shouldn't have happened. He shouldn't have been separated from Margaret so abruptly, certainly. Maybe Margaret shouldn't have encouraged their relationship, even though she must have been touched by what was happening. Of course, keeping Peter sexually satisfied helped keep the project moving. There was research funding at stake. And maybe she didn't realize how strong Peter's feelings were, nor that her relationship with him wasn't just physical.

It's ironic, though, isn't it. Dr. Lilly was working to teach an animal English and prove how close dolphins are to humans. Yet when a dolphin does the very human-like thing and falls in love, he suddenly denies their humanity and throws him back into a cage, like any other animal.

You can decide for yourself whether the way Dr. Lilly (and maybe Margaret, too) treated Peter was ethical if you watch the documentary, The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins, on BBC4.

Do you believe animals like dolphins can feel romantic love? Should we experiment on them like this?

 

Image via BBC

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