After several attempts to dolphin-proof the bait, the team finally figured out a solution: a mesh bait pouch. Photo Credit: Stuart Westmorland/Getty Images, Video: Dolphin Discovery Center TV

Animals Australia17. January 2024

Intelligence Caught On Camera: Dolphins Are Even Smarter Than We Think

Off the coast of far southwestern Australia, researchers have filmed dolphins cleverly taking fish used as bait from crab pots and nets, a behaviour that might have started some 20 years ago.

“The footage was certainly surprising,” says Axel Grossmann, a volunteer and filmmaker who worked on the project. “We knew something was happening, but we had no clue that the dolphins were acting to such an extent, through so much effort, learning and physical and mental problem-solving [to steal the food].”

Bottlenose dolphins are known for being intelligent, brilliant observers, fast learners, and innovators. For fear that dolphins might get caught in fishing nets, fishers and conservators asked the Dolphin Discovery Center, a nonprofit conservation and tourism organization, to install five cameras to record the clever marine mammal. Stunned by what they saw, they devised a dolphin-proof solution: a mesh bait pouch with a metal hook that keeps the bait closed in tight. Upon seeing that the bait wasn’t accessible, the dolphins swam off, thus maintaining the dolphins healthy and making crab fishermen happy.

Smithsonian Magazine

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