Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Meet the real-life Flipper: The extraordinary relationship between a woman and her wild dolphin friend


Ocean bonding: Ute Margreff cuddles with her dolphin friend Mara in the waters off the coast of Galway

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.

Belly rub: Ute and Mara play in the water and the dolphin expert rubs the wild animal's tummy as they bask in the sunshine

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.

Underwater fun: Ute dives underwater with Mara by her side

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.

Having a laugh: Mara gives the camera a happy smile and and shows off her pearly white teeth

‘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.

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

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

The researcher is currently raising awareness about the plight of Morgan, a young female Orca, who is housed in a dolphinarium in Holland.

Ute said: ‘I feel very passionately that all wild sea creatures should remain wild and free.

‘Orcas can swim up to 100 km per day, yet Morgan has been held in a small concrete tank at the Harderwijk Dolfinarium for the past year.

‘It's no place for a wild animal. She needs to be brought back to the ocean where she belongs.’

Similarities: Elijah Wood starring in the 1996 film of Flipper, about a boy who bonded with a bottlenose dolphin

source: dailymail

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