Tourists in China captured a poignant moment on camera recently when they saw an adult dolphin carrying its deceased calf out to sea.
In the photograph, the dolphin has mounted the baby's limp body on its back and a large, bloody gash can be seen in the calf's side. According to the Daily Mail, it appears the dolphin might have been hit by one of the tour boats that ferry around the well-known dolphin-watching area in China's Guangxi Zhuang region.
"I have heard dolphin saves human, but it’s my first time to see such a scene," a boatman familiar with the area told CEN/Europics.
According to the caption on the photo from CEN/Europics, the baby dolphin's body slipped off and nearly sank several times, but the adult dolphin managed to retrieve the body.
The Mail notes that the scene raises the question of whether dolphins are aware of their own mortality, which has long been debated by researchers.
Researchers have observed, however, that dolphins do mourn and grieve for their dead.
This is just the latest account of a dolphin expressing compassion. In April, three men claimed that they were possibly saved from sharks by a pack of dolphins that ran them off.
Many studies have been focused on researching the traits and intelligence of dolphins. Neuroscientist Lori Marino told the Associated Press last month that although their brain looks different from a human's, "the more you learn about them, the more you realize that they do have the capacity and characteristics that we think of when we think of a person."
Unfortunately, this incident is not isolated. A study conducted by WWF in 2010 found that rare dolphins were being injured by boat strikes. Many dolphin species are threatened by fishing gear, pollution, and habitat loss.