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Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek May 13, 2024

Did dolphins save mother whale and newborn from sharks? No, 2021 video shows dolphin feeding frenzy

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  • A video posted in 2021 showed dolphins and whales off South Africa’s coast during a feeding frenzy, according to local news reports.

A frenetic pod of dolphins off South Africa’s coast were praised for heroic actions in an April 16 Facebook post. 

"A whale giving birth in False Bay attracted sharks," read the post, which included a minute-and-a-half long video showing a large whale amid countless dolphins, all leaping out of the water at random intervals. "Hundreds of dolphins appeared out of nowhere and swam in circles around her keeping the sharks away. They stayed with her until she and her baby were safe and then they escorted them both to safety." 

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The video isn’t fabricated. It was filmed in the Atlantic Ocean’s False Bay, between the Cape Peninsula and the Hottentots Holland Mountains. But the story of a gallant ocean rescue? That whale of a tale is inaccurate.

(Screenshot from Facebook.)

We searched Google for claims of dolphins defending a mother whale, because it seemed as if the video footage and story would garner news coverage. We found no reports from reputable news sources that corroborated the Facebook post’s claims. Searches for False Bay dolphins, however, showed that a pod of dolphins had been caught on video during a feeding frenzy. 

Kade Tame captured the video near the coastal town Fish Hoek, South Africa, on March 28, 2021, according to a report by Cape Town Etc

"We saw the super-pod of dolphins and decided to follow them," Tame told the Cape Town-focused lifestyle publication. "As we were following them, the other half of the super-pod was spotted swimming in from Muizenberg beach. We then realised that it was the same pod and (they) were doing this for a reason (gathering fish). Before we knew it, there was white water everywhere and the most spectacular feeding began."

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Around the same time as Cape Town Etc, The Daily Mail reported on the feeding frenzy and attributed the video to Tame.

Tame told The Daily Mail that hundreds of dolphins had worked together to trap a shoal of fish in a circle.

"With the prey fish all trapped in the middle the dolphins then began leaping around in the water in a huge fast circle spinning all the prey fish into a tight ball of sushi waiting to be eaten," Tame said, according to The Daily Mail. 

The dolphins created such a strong current around the fish, Tame told The Daily Mail, that Tame’s 18-foot fishing boat began spinning in circles as the dolphins began feasting. 

"Suddenly a humpback whale arrived followed by two others and decided they wanted in on the feast and without so much as a thank you to the dolphins got stuck into the fish ball," Tame said. "It seemed like there was enough for everyone as the dolphins and whales were feasting for about half an hour until all the food ran out and then they slowly drifted away." 

Tame mentioned neither a mother whale nor a newborn when he recounted the story. 

The video shared with those 2021 news stories matched the video from the Facebook post in several places. 

There are parts of the Facebook video that don’t perfectly match the YouTube video, but the footage shares common details, suggesting that perhaps someone captured more video from another angle that wasn’t shared with Cape Cod Etc. 

Scientists have documented dolphins using the cooperative hunting technique Tame described to encircle and trap fish, which helps maximize a dolphin pod’s chances to feed. 

We rate the claim that the Facebook video shows dolphins rescuing whales from sharks False.

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Did dolphins save mother whale and newborn from sharks? No, 2021 video shows dolphin feeding frenzy

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