A baby dolphin is believed to be dead after a man picked it up and held it out of water for an Instagram photo.
According to local reports, a man shared a photo of him holding a baby dolphin several feet out of the water on a beach near Jacksonville, Florida on Instagram.
The photo sparked outrage and is now drawing the law enforcement — after the baby dolphin in the photo is believed to have died.
According to News4Jax, two marine biologists said it is hard to determine if the dolphin was alive when the photo was taken just by looking at the image. However, if the dolphin was dead, they said it wouldn’t have been for long.
And News4Jax reports that a one-year-old male dolphin calf was found dead on Wednesday in the same area that the photo was taken, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) report shared with Dr. Quincy Gibson.
Gibson is with the University of North Florida’s Dolphin Research Program and she is usually informed by Florida wildlife investigators when a dead dolphin is discovered.
Gibson says FWC investigators believe the dead dolphin calf is the same one seen being hoisted above the water in the photo posted online. She says that the dolphin in the photo appears to be the same one due to the similarity between the dorsal fins. Each dolphin’s dorsal fin is unique.
“I think it’s highly likely that it died after but there is a very small chance that it was deceased recently when they picked it up in the water, but based on the reports that I’ve heard, and the photo, and the way that the people are behaving in the photo, it makes it seem like they did catch it and it was potentially alive at that point,” Gibson tells News4Jax.
It’s against the Federal Marina Mammal Protection Act to interfere with dolphins, even if they’re dead.
Removing a dolphin from the water can cause it to suffer fatal injuries. Experts said removing dolphins from the buoyancy of the water can result in them being crushed by the weight of their own bodies.
CBS News reports that the people involved in the photo are currently not facing criminal charges.