by Désirée Ray
Lately the internet provided us with news about dolphins that used a puffer fish to get high. This might sound like a media prank or a made up story, but sea biologists could easily prove their observations with a video that now circulates around the net. Most of the dolphins that did this were still young. It is possible to compare them to adventure seeking teenagers that want to test their limits. Once a dolphin has gleaned a puffer fish, it takes it carefully and gently in its snout. The puffer fish reacts by defending itself and produces nerve toxins. The dolphin then passes the fish to another dolphin that also holds the puffer fish gently as if it was something very precious.
This procedure takes a few minutes until all dolphins in the group have held the puffer in their snout and absorbed enough of its toxins. The fish can usually escape without being harmed, while its stoned attackers indulge themselves in a mesmerized state. They swim directly under the water surface and are apparently astonished by their own reflections. Dolphins, which are thought of being one of the most intelligent animals species on this planet, surprisingly use puffer fish to get high. However they are not the only ones doing so. In the Kronotsky Nature Reserve located in Russia’s Far East, brown bears sniff on dumped gasoline barrels until they are high. Afterwards they dig a hole in the snow to lie in it on their back in a “nirvana” position. They sometimes even pass out.
Workers of the nature reserve try to take the barrels away in time before a bear can find them, but often they are too late and find stoned bears lying next to the barrels. Some of the bears are even regarded as addicts because they start to follow helicopters and planes in hope that they could drop their desired intoxicant. Apart from the notion that the existence of these animals can take a sad ending by sniffing too much of the gasoline, it is also incredible to realize that not only humans are interested in being mesmerized and in using mind-expanding drugs. Maybe dolphins and bears are not even the only animals that figured out how to get high. Maybe this could show us that being mesmerized and making mind-extending experiences could be a plain wish of many living beings.
Why do animals like to be high? The scale of reasons for humans to get high is certainly huge. The intention to reach a higher level of consciousness can have both positive and negative backgrounds. Do dolphins and bears also get high because they want to stop their thoughts terrorizing their minds? Do they want to paralyze memories or do they just amuse themselves by suddenly feeling so different? Is a more developed intelligence a requirement for the wish to be high? Many of these questions were raised when the video depicting tripping dolphins started circulating the web. It may be that we have to wait for the definitive answers.