Photo and words by @Bri@BrianSkerry.
A spinner dolphin calf - seen in the foreground - with a plastic bag encircling its head swims with her mother in the waters off Oahu, Hawaii. While working on a story about dolphins for @natgeo, I saw this mother dolphin playing with a plastic bag. Dolphins often pick up objects floating in the sea - such as seaweed or leaves - and play games, passing the object to another dolphin swimming behind them. In this case the adult dolphin passed the bag to her calf. The calf picked up the plastic bag and in the process the bag slipped over her head and formed a ring behind her eyes. I was swimming as hard as possible alongside the animal and was trying to reach the calf to pull off the bag, but she stayed just beyond my reach. It was frustrating and horrifying to see this happening so close to me and yet I was unable to help. Eventually, the young dolphin leap into the air, twirling around, as spinner dolphins do to dislodge parasites (hence the name spinner dolphins). On her second attempt, the bag flew off of her head and she was free! I picked up the bag, brought it to the boat and disposed of it once back on land. Plastic is a serious problem for every creature on the planet.
To learn more about these fascinating creatures and the threats that humans pose to them, and to see photos from my adventures around the world, follow me - @BrianSkerry - on Instagram.