Science vs. emotion in river dolphins debate

January 18, 2009 7:40:31 AM PST
Federal wildlife officials say science is on their side in the decision to leave a family of bottlenose dolphins in a frigid New Jersey river.

But they didn't count on the "Flipper factor."

That's the intense, emotional attachment many people have toward dolphins, the highly intelligent, social animals whose facial expressions make them look like they're smiling.

When science and sentiment collide, the result is what has been playing out at the Jersey shore since June: A battle over whether wild animals need humans' help to survive, or whether they should be left alone to let nature take its course.

Three dolphins have died so far, and only five of the original 16 remain in the Shrewsbury River.

But it's unclear what happened to the other eight.