… headlined a Thanksgiving Day e-mail, one I would have deleted immediately but for Save and Dolphin in the title. It read:
You may be ignorant of the perils it faces, possibly even unaware of its existence, but the Syrian Dolphin (Phocoena syriensis) is in imminent danger of extinction. This rare sub-species of Syria’s Mediterranean coast, which once numbered in the thousands, has dwindled to fewer than a hundred and could vanish unless we act now.
The Syrian Dolphin has become yet another casualty of the deadly Syrian civil war — sometimes directly, but more often as a consequence of the total collapse of Syria’s social and political order, and of the meticulous system of protection and support that had saved and stabilized this species against all odds.
Won’t you help now! Volunteers are needed on every front — rescue; transportation to safety in America; provision of acceptable habitat; medical and scientific support. If you are unable to volunteer, please donate. Simply contact us at ….
How could I, how could anyone, not be moved by such a message? Dolphins touch us deeply. They are remarkably human; they make intelligible sounds; they respond to us, learning from us, even forming powerful emotional bonds with us, all the more remarkably so for their inhabiting an entirely different realm.
How appropriate that this message showed up on the day we try to be especially thankful for our blessings and thoughtful toward those less fortunate.
I was ready to act when a second message showed up, entitled What You Need to Know About the Syrian Dolphin. Thinking it was a follow-up from the same source, I opened it. It was not what I expected:
You may have recently received a message urging you to support the relocation of Syrian Dolphins to the U.S. Don’t act hastily. You need to know the facts!
Syrian Dolphins Speak a Different Language: Analysis of their squeaks and ticks reveals that they communicate very differently from American Dolphins. There is little chance they could overcome this enormous language gap and fit comfortably and productively into local dolphin society even if, God forbid, they should demand to be “trained” through the medium of their own tongue.
They Could Introduce Dangerous Diseases: As American Indians know only too tragically, strangers bring diseases for which the native population has no defenses. Syrian Dolphins could wipe out our American Dolphins.
They Will Take American Jobs: American Dolphins work hard to support their families. The depletion of fish stocks in recent decades has hit them hard and driven the unemployment rate above 30%. The situation is bad even in protected locations like Disney World and SeaWorld where so-called animal-rights activists have forced scores of dolphins onto the welfare rolls.
They Could Harbor Terrorists: It is well-known that Russia, for years, explored the possibility of weaponizing dolphins to be used, in effect, as suicide bombers. (U.S. experiments were limited to using them to detect, not carry, weapons.) It is rumored that Russia shared its findings with Iran. Both Russia and Iran are close allies of the current Syrian regime. Need we say more?
I was dumbfounded but thankful for having been warned. If this could happen with dolphins, I said to myself, think how much more dangerous it would be if we were talking about actual human beings!