An incredible video has emerged of a kindly pod of dolphins helping save a baby seal from being washed up on a beach.
In the video, captured by a Canadian film crew, the exhausted baby seal struggles against the current as it drifts ever closer to the shoreline and away from the safety of the deeper waters.
But just as it seems as though the pup will lose its battle against the waves, a family of dolphins emerge and lend a helping fin as they send the pup on its way.
This is the amazing moment when a friendly pod of dolphins intervened to help a struggling seal pup find its way back to deeper water and safety
The seal had somehow become separated from its group and was straying dangerously close to the shore when the pod of bottlenose dolphins arrived
The lone pup had floated into the shallow waters and, exhausted, was drifting close to the shore, unable to save itself by swimming away.
Then grey shapes appear in the water nearby as a family of bottlenose dolphins swim into view.
Curious, they swim up to the struggling pup, and then, seeing its distress, lend a helping fin by nudging the pup gently back to deeper waters.
The remarkable video was captured by a Canadian crew working on a series of documentaries entitled Return to Shark Island for the nature channel Oasis HD.
Safe at last, and saved from near-certain death, the seal pup swam away from its rescuers back into the deep waters
Creatures lending a helping hand - or fin, or wing - is widely recorded throughout the animal kingdom particularly in species with complex social structures.
For example, vampire bats regularly regurgitate blood and donate it to other members of their group who have failed to feed that night, ensuring they do not starve.
In numerous bird species, a breeding pair receives help in raising its young from other ‘helper’ birds, who protect the nest from predators and help to feed the fledglings.
Vervet monkeys give alarm calls to warn fellow monkeys of the presence of predators, even though in doing so they attract attention to themselves, increasing their personal chance of being attacked.
Lori Marino, a senior lecturer in the department of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who has studied bottlenose dolphins, told Associated Press that dolphins show similar intelligence and social behaviour as apes, monkeys and even humans.
She said: 'The more you learn about them, the more you realise that they do have the capacity and characteristics that we think of when we think of a person.'
Dolphins have ridden to the rescue of humans as well as baby seals: they have been known to save injured divers by raising them to the surface.
They also do this to help injured members of their own species.
In November 2004, a dramatic report of dolphin intervention came from New Zealand when four four lifeguards, swimming 330 feet off the coast near Whangarei, were approached by a shark.
Hero dolphins herded the swimmers together and surrounded them for 40 minutes, preventing the shark from attacking, as they slowly swam to shore.
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