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Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins Show Strain Of Not Getting Enough Sleep

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Turning now to dolphin news, those charming, seagoing mammals often look like they're smiling. And here's a couple of other ways we humans can relate to them. They need their sleep, and they need their personal space. For Hawaiian spinner dolphins, that's a challenge because they prefer to sleep during peak, daytime beach hours. And their favorite place to sleep is right in close to the shore, where a popular tourist attraction is swimming with the dolphins. Ann Garrett, with the National Marine Fisheries Service, says the dolphins are really showing the strain.

ANN GARRETT: The dolphins are starting to show behaviors of avoidance of boats and people. They're also sometimes deterred from entering their preferred habitat when there's too many people. We've seen shorter resting periods. And we've also seen changes in their daily behavior patterns. And that constant pressure on a daily basis leads to a chronic stress.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And now NOAA has responded. The agency proposed protective regulations for the dolphins. Swimmers, snorkelers and boats should leave the dolphins be. Stay 50 yards away from them because the thing is, with the spinner dolphins, she says you can't really tell if they're sleeping.

GARRETT: They don't sleep like we do. Their eyes are wide open. And they even may show some signs of curiosity. But it's a little bit like trying to put down a child for a nap. It can be difficult when there's constant level of distractions.

MONTAGNE: Tour operators in Hawaii are predictably dismayed by the idea that they have to tell Hawaiian tourists to keep their distance. But Garrett says tourists who want to swim with the dolphins will get it if they understand these dolphins just need a little downtime.

GARRETT: It's kind of akin to how would you like somebody walking into your room or calling you repeatedly in the middle of the night? And you just don't get that rest.

MONTAGNE: And after all, don't we all need some rest? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.