Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis
An older but insightful interview with Dr. Toni Frohoff, marine mammal behavioral biologist, illuminates how her work with dolphins has reshaped her interpretation of them as well as their capabilities. She explains how animal sentience or an animal’s capability to experience feeling was only considered a “soft science” until very recently, but that her own research with these extraordinary animals has influenced her understanding of them. She also debunks the myth that orcas, who are classified in the same family as dolphins, are in fact vicious. A pod that is present in the Pacific Northwest is extremely peaceful and orcas have their own specialized, matrilineal culture which has flourished for hundreds of years. She even goes on to emphasize that orcas have the ability to “name” or individually differentiate between members of their own pod. Dolphins’ interactions with humans are highlighted throughout this interview as examples of cross-species communication and opportunities to quiet our own projections to possibly learn something we never knew before.
“Quieting the mind, along with all of its expectations, entitlements, hopes, really seems to be a prerequisite for learning from animals – if not each other. It made me more receptive, which helped me to be a much better scientist – and a more conscious person on this much-more-than-human planet.”