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Learning English - Words in the News
01 December, 2004 - Published 12:39 GMT
Dolphins protect swimmers from shark

A group of swimmers has described how a pod of dolphins protected them from a great white shark off the coast of New Zealand. The lifeguards were on a training swim when they encountered a three-metre shark before the dolphins raced in to help. This report from Phil Mercer:

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The swimmers were surrounded by the dolphins for forty minutes before they were able to make it safely back to the beach. It was an uncomfortable experience as they were circled by a great white shark, which came within a couple of metres of them. Lifeguard Rob Howes was in the water with two colleagues and his teenage daughter. He said around half a dozen dolphins suddenly appeared and herded the swimmers together. The mammals swam in tight circles to create a defensive barrier as the great white lurked under the surface.

The swimmers said the dolphins were extremely agitated and repeatedly slapped the water with their tails, presumably to try to deter the predator as it cruised nearby. It's a day they'll never forget, especially for one who was on her first day as a volunteer. They have no doubt that the dolphins acted deliberately to protect them. Researchers have said they're not surprised. A marine biologist insisted that dolphins, which are considered to be one of the most intelligent mammals, "like to help the helpless."

Phil Mercer, BBC News, Sydney

Listen to the words

gathered together like a farmer gathers cattle together close together in one place

animals that breath air, give birth to live young and feed them with milk; dolphins, humans, whales and cows are all mammals

a defensive barrier
something protective that is between a source of danger and something in danger

waited secretly somewhere planning to do something bad

worried and anxious

again and again

to deter
to act in a way that makes someone or something decide not to do something

an animal that kills and eats other animals

acted deliberately
their behaviour was not a coincidence, it was intended

A marine biologist
a scientist who studies life in the oceans

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