Margaret Howe Lovatt's relationship with a dolphin in the 1960s became fodder for Hustler in the '70s—and ended in tragedy. Lovatt was working with scientist John Lilly, on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, to better understand dolphins, and she hoped to teach one of them to speak English. To that end, she began living with a dolphin named Peter for 24 hours a day, six days a week, writes Christopher Riley, who recently filmed a documentary about Lovatt's story, in the Guardian. The young Peter had sexual urges: "He was very, very interested in my anatomy," Lovatt says. Getting him to other dolphins was a cumbersome effort, so she relieved his urges manually.
"It would just become part of what was going on, like an itch—just get rid of it, scratch it, and move on," she recalls. "It wasn't sexual on my part. Sensuous perhaps." After six months, the experiment ended, and Peter was shipped to another facility. Shortly afterward, he committed what experts say was a suicide; dolphins are known to intentionally stop breathing. The cause, says a vet who was involved in the project, was lost love. Riley's documentary, The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins, airs on the BBC this month. The story, it seems, isn't unique: A man tells Britain's Mirror about his own sexual relationship with a dolphin; he believes her death afterward was a suicide, too. (A happier dolphin story: Researchers recently found a new river species for the first time in a century.)