The first intimate account of dolphin life in the wild – a revolutionary portrait that can be compared to Jane Goodall’s classic investigation into the world of chimpanzees.
In 1982, Rachel Smolker turned her lifetime fascination with dolphins into a groundbreaking research project. Frustrated by the limitations of observing dolphins in captivity, she moved to Monkey Mia, a remote beach on the west coast of Australia where “tame” wild dolphins regularly interact with humans.
Gradually Smolker and a team of fellow scientists extended the human-dolphin community to encompass dolphins that did not come towards the shore. By 1990, they could recognise and chart the behaviour of more than 250 individuals.
To Touch a Wild Dolphin is Smolker’s highly engaging chronicle of her time with the dolphins of Monkey Mia. It unravels much of the mystery surrounding these appealing creatures and offers an up-close look at their society and the individuals that inhabit it. From the intriguing differences between the sexes and the nature of mother-infant relationships, to the wide repertoire of sounds used for social communication, the author reveals the inner workings of dolphin life. She profiles single dolphins and shows them to have personalities ranging from the playful to the moody to the downright silly.
Rachel Smolker has participated in the study of dolphins in Hawaii and the Bahamas, as well as studying whales in British Columbia and New Zealand. In 1982, she co-founded the Monkey Mia dolphin project on a remote beach in Western Australia. She is currently a research associate at the University of Vermont and at the Museum of Zoology at the University of Michigan.
“Some marvellous passages of travel writing… a most unexpected picture of dolphin society emerges. How lucky we are that Rachel Smolker had the skills to make her hard-won results available to us in such an attractive way.”
Times Literary Supplement