Friday, 25 December 2009

Trainer dies in accident at Loro Parque

TENERIFE, Spain -- A trainer at Loro Parque, a zoo on the Canary Islands, was accidentally killed by an orca during a training session for a Christmas spectacular planned to open at the beginning of January. The trainer was identified as 29-year-old Alexis Martínez from Puerto de la Cruz.

Seven other trainers were also present during the training session when Alexis drowned. As far as can be determined, Alexis was hit by the whale and drowned after being underwater for several minutes before he could be rescued.

Alexis was immediately assisted by Loro Parque emergency services. Amidst resuscitation attempts, he was transferred to the Bell Vue Clinic by ambulance, where he was admitted with cardiac arrest. An autopsy will be needed before the precise cause of death can be confirmed.

The news has distressed Loro Parque staff immensely, and the planned Orca show has been suspended for the moment. Alexis had worked at the Parque since 2004, where he was well regarded by his colleagues.

Source: UnderwaterTimes

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Ga. Aquarium whales temporarily shipped out

Oct. 6, 2009, 5:57AM

ATLANTA — Expansion of a dolphin exhibit has led Georgia Aquarium officials to ship their three beluga whales to Texas for a few months.

Aquarium spokeswoman Meghann Gibbons says the whales were shipped to Sea World San Antonio, Texas on Sunday. They are expected to return to Atlanta in December.

Gibbons says the aquarium's animal husbandry department has been monitoring the belugas, which are extremely sensitive to sound, since construction began more than a year ago near their habitat.

She says aquarium officials decided to eliminate the risk and send the whales to a quieter place until the loudest part of the work is completed.


Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,

Friday, 25 September 2009

SeaWorld has apparently been sold to The Blackstone Group

September 23, 2009:

SeaWorld Orlando plans to tell its employees Wednesday that the popular water park and several others owned by Busch Entertainment, have been sold to the same company that owns half of Orlando, Central Florida News 13 is reporting. "That would be another huge deal they've been up for sale for a while," Robert Niles from Theme Park Insider told CFN 13. Insiders and experts said the most likely buyer is The Blackstone Group, a private equity firm that already owns half of Universal Studios. Rumours about a possible sale have circulated for months, but recently sources said high-ranking Blackstone officials have been spotted touring SeaWorld Orlando.
The Blackstone Group owns Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd, the largest operator of amusement parks and other attractions in Europe, and the second largest operating globally after Disney. Speculation intensified in recent weeks amid reports that Blackstone is preparing an initial public offering of its Merlin Group, whose holdings include Legoland theme parks, Madame Tussauds wax museums and the London Eye. Analysts say Blackstone could hope to make the Merlin public offering more attractive by acquiring the Busch parks and packaging them with Merlin in the offering or using the proceeds from the IPO to help finance a separate Busch purchase.

Merlin Entertainments has a very interesting policy on care of marine mammals:
Merlin Entertainments is the world's second largest visitor attraction operator with 58 attractions around the world, and the world's premier operator of aquaria through its SEA LIFE brand.

Merlin and SEA LIFE have an excellent record and reputation for the ethical and responsible care, preservation and conservation of the marine environment. This is demonstrated by the way in which our aquariums operate; our rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine animals in distress; and our SOS (Save Our Seas) programmes which have achieved significant global recognition and delivered real conservation successes. We also have very clear policies relating to the captivity, care and treatment of marine mammals such as dolphins and sea lions. Indeed in the case of cetaceans, we have a clear stated policy of concern as to their suitability as display animals, and the company has never condoned the capture of these creatures from the wild for entertainment purposes, or indeed at all.

That said, given Merlin's fast growth over the last 3 years, we have at times acquired businesses which historically have included shows which involve these creatures. In every case we have worked with experts to take immediate action, and develop plans which we believe are in the best interest of the animals involved. These have included the cessation of entertainment 'shows' involving the creatures - either entirely - as with the sea lion shows in Heide Park (Germany) and Gardaland (Italy); or by a complete change of content to ensure that in future any presentations are simply designed to highlight the creatures' more natural behaviour and instincts, and are purely educational.

We are never complacent however, and we are always mindful of our responsibilities to the welfare of the animals in our care, so this policy is constantly monitored. Simultaneously we have reviewed the environment and care of the creatures in every location, and where we do not believe this is adequate or appropriate we have acted decisively.


Merlin Entertainments is committed to ensuring the best possible welfare solution for the dolphins that have come into our care and has, therefore, joined with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) to evaluate all possible options for the future of the dolphins. We are aware that there is an ongoing debate about the viability of releasing captive cetaceans to the open sea, and so Merlin believes that all potential outcomes should be evaluated and considered.

To this end, Merlin has commissioned WDCS to undertake a feasibility study to evaluate all possible future scenarios, including rehabilitation, release and/or retirement of the dolphins to a bespoke natural facility or protected 'natural' retirement home. This project, coordinated by WDCS and involving global expertise, will ensure that the company has as much possible information on which to make a final decision on how best to secure the future for the dolphins currently in its care.

These statements could bring intriguing changes to SeaWorld, whether regarding the end of captures from the wild or the future of displaying cetaceans at all.

Orlando Sentinel, Merlin Entertainment

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Birth at Odessa Dolphinarium (NEMO) - in July 2009

On July 26 actress Vita gave birth to a great baby. (For reference: Vita found thrown on the coast in 2007. With a diagnosis of acute pneumonia. She was rescued by the specialists of Odessa Dolphinarium "Nemo." For a long time, doctors fought for her life. Treatment and rehabilitation Vita lasted more than six months. Remuneration of veterinary specialists dolphinarium was that she not only came back to life, but also created a full family). Genera nachilis at 22:15 just in time, "a romantic night show in front of thousands of spectators who poschastlivelos to witness such an event. Father babes dolphin Kohl always been with stranded during childbirth. Genera proceeded smoothly. Under scrutiny Mom and Dad "Baby" feels good. At 23:45 of the child tasted the first portion of milk, which she had to taste. "Baby" with pleasure practices with the mother's nipples every 15 minutes. My mother gently placed on its side and substitutes a small chest filled with valuable nutritious milk. Specialists Dolphinarium in the collection, regularly monitors the health of mothers and babes. Odessa Dolphinarium on practice three times already! confirmed and reinforced the possible facts of reproduction of marine mammals in the built environment. In 2007 - was born Nemo (my mother Lily, father Gavryusha) in 2008godu - Born Gene (Eugene mother, father, Skipper) and now 2009godu - born "Baby" (Mother Vita father Kolya).

The name "Malyshka was determined in competition to name the letters of visitors to e-mail dolphinarium The most common name in the letters was addressed to Sonya. Pending baby-delfinenka will call Sonia. All contestants who proposed the name of Sonya in the coming days will receive invitations to the Dolphinarium in the presentation on September 2 at 18:00 in the City Day, which will be raffled off the grand prize - swimming with dolphins.



Enoshima Aquarium Reports Death of "Olin"

A young male dolphin named "Olin" has died at the Enoshima Aquarium in Japan. His date of death was August 28th, 2009.

On their website they post:

Four captive bottlenose dolphins of the world, "Olin" the sudden death report

June 2008 4 under Sun 4 bottlenose dolphin born in captivity in the world, "Olin" (male) is, 2009 August 28, early Saturday has died. We are currently investigating the details of the cause of death.

"Olin" in Buridingupuru Irukashosutajiamu this year from six in the month, same time (June 12, 2008), bottlenose dolphin born in the "pick" with participating in the training was pretty popular in sight.

Warm up to it, "Olin" gave us a lot of everyone watching the growth, I would like to thank and appreciate.

※ 8 31 (Mon) 14:20 - the "icon and pick Olga growth Diary" is stopped and we bon appétit. Please note that your.



Sunday, 6 September 2009

Aqualand announces birth of baby dolphin

Aqualand has announced with great delight the birth of a male baby dolphin on 12 August. His mother, Yemaya, was herself born in the water park 12 years ago, and the new infant, who is in good health, is her second baby. He is expected to participate in exhibitions when he is three or four years old.

The baby dolphin weighed 15 kilos and measured 1.5 metres at birth, and is apparently very energetic, having started making dolphin calls within just 3 hours of being born. He is feeding well and regularly, and swims tirelessly alongside Yemaya.

Yemaya’s first baby was born in the park when she was 7 years old, becoming in the process one of the youngest dolphin mothers in Europe. She is an exemplary mother, said José Luis Barbero, Technical Director of the Dolphinarium at Aqualand, who explained that the dolphin had fed her first infant for three years, behaviour which convinced them that she would once more be an excellent mother for her new baby. Her skills, indeed, have led to her being chosen as one of the females who form part of the dolphin therapy programme at the water park.


Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Brookfield Dolphins Transported to the Minnesota Zoo

The Minnesota Zoo's dolphin exhibit just got a little more snug now that they have three of Chicago's bottlenose dolphins crashing there until their new aquarium is completed. Warning to the wise: Don't offer your place to a Chicagoan. They usually overstay their welcome.

The dolphins are from the Brookfield Zoo and arrived Sunday night by a FedEx plane. They were monitored and taken care of by zoo professionals during the trip.

"Tapeko," 27; "Noelani," 5; and "Allison," 3, will live at the Minnesota Zoo until their home is complete in spring 2010. The Seven Seas dolphin arena in Brookfield is 20 years old.

"The move went very smoothly," said Minnesota Zoo Marine Mammal Supervisor Diane Fusco in a press release. "We are excited to have the Brookfield Zoo's dolphins and their staff here while their facility is being remodeled."

The new arrives will live in a separate area away from the zoo's resident dolphins: "April," 42; "Allie," 22; "Spree, 7," and "Semo," 45. They could be integrated into the saving living space in the future.

Six of the Chicago Zoological Society trainers will stay in Minnesota with the dolphins to keep their training continuous.

To see the new arrivals, visit Discovery Bay stadium during the following hours:
August 31 - Labor Day: 9:30 - 4:30 daily
September 8-30: 9:30-2:30 weekdays/9:30 - 4:30 weekends
October 1-May 1: 9:30 - 2:30 daily

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Dolphin deaths blamed on population boom

Conservationists say the death of three dolphins in Queensland's Moreton Bay last week should not be blamed on a fertiliser and oil spill in March.

The Pacific Adventurer lost 31 containers of fertiliser in rough seas off Cape Moreton, damaging the ship which leaked thousands of litres of oil.

But Simon Baltais from the Wildlife Preservation Society says the dolphins' deaths are more likely to have been caused by south-east Queensland's booming population.

"Dispersion of that fertiliser would have been fairly quick and I think you'll find most scientists would agree with that," he said.

"I think what we're seeing is a symptom of a bigger problem and that's the health of Moreton Bay going backwards - we're seeing increased loads of nutrients entering the bay through stormwater pollution and that could be one of the major drivers."

Brookfield Zoo dolphin lawsuit: Woman sues over fall she blames on wet floor

Wet floors are slippery. Dolphins love to splash. So the folks who run the Brookfield Zoo should have known accidents were bound to happen, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court.

Allecyn Edwards sued the Chicago Zoological Society and the zoo because she claims they "recklessly and willfully trained and encouraged the dolphins to throw water at the spectators in the stands making the floor wet and slippery," "failed to provide warnings of the slippery floor" and "failed to provide mats ... when the staff knew the floor would get wet and slippery," among other negligent acts, according to the complaint.

On Aug. 20, 2008, Edwards was walking along the floor near bleachers at the dolphin exhibit and fell, the suit says. The injuries from the fall caused her to lose wages, incur medical expenses and experience physical and mental suffering, the suit says.

Edwards' attorney did not return calls for comment, and a spokeswoman for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, declined to comment.

And how much is a fall around dolphins at play worth? In excess of $50,000, according to the lawsuit.,0,7698064.story

Albino whale spotted with possible tumor

After last being sighted in 2007, the infamous solid white albino whale known as Migaloo has been spotted again traveling south east off of Queensland coast heading towards the area of the Great Barrier Reef. The male humpback was spotted traveling alone with a lump found to be located on the side of his head that some fear could be a possible tumor.

Greg Kaufman, who first photographed Migaloo during the initial sighting of the rare albino humpback whale in 1991, noted that he appeared to be fairing well and showed no obvious signs of illness although they fear that the lump may actually be a tumor; an occurrence that is common in species that exhibit albinism- a lack of coloring or pigmentation caused to a lack of melanin.

Observers will continue to watch his condition carefully, feeling that there is no need for concern at this time.

The footage below was taken during a 2007 sighting of Migaloo

More dolphins may head overseas

IN the face of international condemnation and scientific advice, the government of the Solomon Islands is poised to allow another export of wild-caught dolphins.

Earth Island Institute claims that up to 18 Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins of 30 being held in pens on Gavutu are destined to be shipped to Panama in the Caribbean in the near future.

Christopher Porter, Robert Satu and Francis Chow. Wildlife International Network is reportedly the buyer/broker in the deal.

In April of this year, a working group of CITES, the body that regulates the international trade in endangered species instigated an in-depth review of trade in Solomon Islands dolphins because of its concerns about the status of dolphin populations in Solomon Island waters.

This review is still underway. In making the decision the group, acknowledging the lack of data on dolphin numbers, recommended that the maximum number that may be able to sustain being taken from Solomon Island waters in any one year is only ten animals.

“By allowing three times that number to be held in the Gavutu pens and 18 to be exported, the government is ignoring international law and is acting contrary to its own statements and advice,” said Susan Millward, Executive Director at the Washington DC-based Animal Welfare Institute.

In April 2008 at a CITES meeting, Dr. Baddley Anita, representing the government of Solomon Islands stated that “the Solomon Islands would stop exports if new scientific data showed them to be unsustainable.”

No reliable population studies of Solomon Islands dolphins have been undertaken and such studies will take several years to complete.

The Cetacean Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union, comprising some of the world’s leading dolphin experts, stated in a 2008 report co-authored by representatives of the Solomon Islands government, which are Joe Horokou and John Leqata that “the local population would have to consist of at least 5,000 dolphins to sustain removals of 100 dolphins per year for export.”

In the same report they determined that dolphin “abundance in the area of recent live-captures may be well below 5,000.”

Mark Berman, Associate Director of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project stated that “By allowing the continued capture and export of dolphins the Solomon Islands government is hurting the country’s economy and reputation as potential investors and tourists shy away.”

The last export of Solomon Islands dolphins to the Philippines was deemed illegal by the Philippine Scientific Authority and a ban on future imports of Solomon Islands dolphins was advised.

The multi-million dollar tuna business is another industry to suffer.

Minister of Fisheries Nollen Leni has been trying to marketing himself to Earth Island Institute approved dolphin-safe tuna companies overseas but will be met with stiff opposition because of the dolphin trade situation, Earth Island said yesterday.

“The Solomon Islands government must stop pandering to the few individuals who are getting rich from the dolphin exports and respect international law.”

Friday, 14 August 2009

Toby Has A New Home!

August 08 - Dear Toby Supporters,
I know we've all been very anxious over the last few weeks to find out where Toby's new home will be and we finally received the news!

Toby will be moving to Theater of the Sea Marine Mammal Park, which is located in Islamorada, Florida Keys. You can read more about Toby's new home by clicking the link as shown below. I know we will all be relieved and excited to see Toby interact with other dolphins once again and TMMSN can't thank you enough for your help in getting Toby to this point. We will be working with the facility to make plans and any further details regarding the transfer process will follow as soon as they become available.

Link for Theater of the Sea:


The Port River's much-loved dolphin Billie has died in Adelaide. Australia

"Veterinary staff had done testing which confirmed she was suffering from terminal kidney problems.

An autopsy will be done in an effort to find what led to Billie's renal failure.

Aaron Machado, from Project Dolphin Safe, says no-one wanted to see Billie dying in pain.

"Her kidneys had stopped functioning and that's going to be a very painful way to die so the decision was made under humanitarian grounds to put her out of that," he said.

"We'll wait for the toxicology reports to come back once those tissue samples are taken and then that will give us a better understanding as to what was going on internally.

"And being renal failure there's an underlying issue there and we have to find out what that is, what's caused that."

Since the source article shows Billie's name as 'Billy', I made corrections here (by changing from 'Billy' to 'Billie') so as to avoid confusion on the readers' part.


Thursday, 13 August 2009

Feds permit MGM Mirage to import 2 dolphins. NV, USA

Animal rights groups had filed a complaint during public comment.

A federal agency has granted MGM Mirage a permit to import two Atlantic bottlenose dolphins for public display in Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden on the Las Vegas Strip.

The Mirage filed an application April 15 with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service to import two captive Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, a male and a female, from Bermuda for breeding.

The permit was granted on Aug. 4 and was published in the Federal Register on Monday, said Jennifer Skidmore, spokeswoman for the service.

After the deaths of two dolphins, Sgt. Pepper in early June and Sage last year, animal rights organizations Born Free USA and The World Society for the Protection of Animals filed a complaint against the Mirage's petition to import during a 30-day public comment period.

MGM Mirage spokesman Gordon Absher said the permit for the two dolphins is just the first step in a process to bring new mammals to the resort. "We have not announced anything," Absher said.

By breeding dolphins at the habitat, the Mirage could increase its dolphin population and continue ongoing research, Absher said.

The Siegfried and Roy Secret Garden Web site describes the dolphin habitat as 2.5 million gallons in four connected pools. An artificial coral reef and sandy bottom try to replicate the dolphins' natural habitat.

The Mirage's dolphin display is open to school students and research is an integral part of the display, according to MGM Mirage. Guests may become "dolphin trainer for a day," for example.

But animal rights activists said the Mirage's quest for new dolphins is motivated by profit, noting the dolphin display is open to paying visitors, for parties and for private dolphin encounters.

The Born Free and WSPA letter cited stress that 10- or 11-year-old dolphins undergo when being transported from the tropical climes of Bermuda to Southern Nevada's desert, causing acute stress.

Sgt. Pepper was the 14th dolphin to die at the Mirage habitat since it opened in 1990. Five of the 14 dolphins were stillborn or died shortly after birth; others died from respiratory infections such as pneumonia, pulmonary abscesses and stomach tears.

In the case of Sage, an investigation found "inconclusive" causes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture initiated an investigation in Sgt. Pepper's death, but results are not yet available.

The Mirage permit was issued under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. The Mirage last imported a dolphin, Lightning, Sgt. Pepper's father, from a captive facility in Florida more than three years ago.


Killer Whales Gather To Socialize, Create Bonds.

New research from scientists in Russia shows that even killer whales like to socialize, creating and visiting social clubs just like humans do.

Until now, scientists never knew why up to 100 killer whales would meet in the Avacha Gulf off the coast of Russia, forming huge superpods despite the fact they typically live in smaller groups. But after studying the whales, the researchers discovered that these groups act as clubs in which the fish-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca) form and maintain social bonds.

Killer whales in the Avacha Gulf live in stable groups known pods, which contain an average of ten whales with up to 20 in the largest pods. However, researchers have seen up to eight of these pods joining together to form even larger aggregations of up to 100 whales.

These large gatherings of pods are seen in numerous places around the world, such as British Columbia, Alaska, Iceland and Antarctica, where large numbers of killer whales live.

Since killer whales have no natural predators, it is not likely the pods are joining together for protection.

Although scientists had speculated that the whales meet to boost their foraging success or to breed, the true underlying reasons for the behavior had not been identified.

To investigate the phenomenon, Olga Filatova of the Moscow State University and colleagues from the Far East Russia Orca Project studied and photographed whales in the Avacha Gulf.

"At first we might see just a few spouts on the horizon. Then quickly we move among them, keeping a distance of a hundred meters so as not to bother them," project co-director Erich Hoyt of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), which provided the majority of funding for the project, told BBC News.

"As far as the eye can see, in every direction you see groupings of two to six killer whales surfacing, spouting then dipping below the surface,” he said.

"Each grouping has a focal mother figure surrounded by her offspring, some of whom may be full grown males with up to 2m dorsal fins that tower over the females.”

The researchers also used a hydrophone, a special underwater directional microphone, to record the sound of the whale vocalizations. Each pod of fish-eating killer whales in the Avacha Gulf has a specific vocal dialect that could be identified by the hydrophone, while the shape of a whale’s dorsal fins and markings were used to distinguish individual whales to analyze their behavior.

The whales rarely forage and feed when they gather into their superpods, the scientists found, suggesting this is not the reason behind their aggregation. In fact, depending on the type of prey, forming a superpod might even lessen the feeding success of each whale, the scientists said.

What the researchers did find is that the whales interacted much more during these large gatherings, which lasted anywhere from a few hours to almost half a day.

When meeting whales from other family pods, they made contact with each other, swam in synchrony and rubbed flippers more frequently, the scientists said. Additionally, sexual activity increased, something that might suggest these large aggregations offer a chance to assess potential breeding partners.

But these behaviors likely have a greater purpose beyond reproduction, the scientists said, by enabling whales to establish and maintain social bonds. For that reason, the whales gather in core meeting areas and form large aggregations.

"The superpods are like big social clubs," says Hoyt. "These clubs could help them stay acquainted, could be part of the courting process but could have other functions that we need to learn about,” the researchers said.

Preserving social bonds is vital for many social mammals that live and hunt together, particularly critical for killer whales, which tend to live long lives in small communities with low birth rates. Killer whales also struggle with high calf mortality rates that can reach 50% in the first six months.

"Understanding more about their social lives, including their reproduction, will be crucial to our future understanding of them and our ability to keep their population healthy," Hoyt told BBC News.

The researchers have recently expanded their research outside of the Avacha Gulf, and are studying other killer whale groups further north and south along the Kamchatka coast and to the offshore Commander Islands.

The research is published in the Journal of Ethology.

On the Net:
* Journal of Ethology
* Moscow State University
* Far East Russia Orca Project


Call to free Cliffy the wild dolphin. Australia

A WAR of words has erupted over the capture of Moreton Bay’s Cliffy, the lone dolphin which has won the hearts of baysiders.

Whale conservation group Sea Shepherd has joined forces with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in condemning Cliffy’s confinement at Sea World on the Gold Coast.

The State Government requested that Sea World capture the dolphin late last month when it was deemed he was at risk of being injured or killed.

Cliffy had become a regular visitor to the Water Police base at Lytton.

However, Sea Shepherd co-ordinator Michael Dalton, pictured, has condemned the actions, saying Cliffy should never have been removed.

``It’s just not right. We want to help him,’’ Mr Dalton said.

``No dolphin should be kept in captivity for human entertainment.’’

Mr Dalton and Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society director Dr Mike Bossley said there were documented cases of lone dolphins living world-wide with no justified reasons for their removal.

``While it is true that many solitaries have suffered an untimely end, it is also true that if their situation is properly managed they can live indefinitely in the wild,’’ Dr Bossley said.

Sea World’s director of marine sciences, Trevor Long, said releasing Cliffy into the wild would be irresponsible.

He said there had been previous attempts to return him to the ocean, but he always returned to human activity in port.

``Cliffy has bitten children, has had hooks in his body and lines around him and is missing three inches from his tail,’’ Mr Long said.

``If we let him go now it will only be a matter of time until he eats a bad fish and dies, someone hurts him, he gets caught in more fishing lines, he gets hit by a boat or attacked by a bull-shark due to his weak situation.’’

Mr Dalton rejected the claims, saying any animal in Moreton Bay could be hurt by fishing lines, boats and interaction with humans.

It was a long bow to draw that Cliffy’s situation was different, he said.

``If he’s released into the wild, the best thing would be to educate locals not to feed him and other marine animals, rather than use that as justification to keep him in captivity,’’ Mr Dalton said.

Department of Environment and Resource Management director Terry Harper said it was preferable for wild animals to always remain in the wild, but in individual cases such as this it might be appropriate that it remained in captivity. ``The animal had become habituated to human interaction which put it at risk,’’ he said.

Conservation groups will hold a 6.30pm screening of dolphin protection documentary The Cove at Portside Dendy tonight to raise awareness of Cliffy’s captivity.

The documentary looks at the plight of dolphins slaughtered in Japan.


Saturday, 8 August 2009

Fishermen attack Amazon dolphins.

"Freshwater dolphins living in the Amazon river basin are being attacked and killed by local fishermen.

Conservationists have found a number of boto and tucuxi dolphins that have been struck with machetes and harpoons and left to die.

The fishermen attack the dolphins fearing they are stealing their fish and ruining their fishing gear.

Some of the killings may also be driven by strong cultural taboos that suggest the animals bring bad luck.

The discovery of the dolphins came during a survey designed to monitor the mortality rate of both Amazonian dolphins and manatees conducted by researchers at the Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development in Tefe, Brazil.

During the survey, the research team led by Miriam Marmontel and Carolina Loch recovered 18 dead dolphins, six of which were botos (Inia geoffrensis), also known as the Amazon river dolphin or pink river dolphin, and 12 were tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis), another species that lives in the Amazon basin that is more closely related to oceanic dolphins.

Three of the dolphins had unusual injuries.

"These lesions were recognisable as marks made by stabbing with machetes and harpoon wounds," says Loch.

The dolphins were found in two adjacent areas.

Both tucuxi carcasses were found floating in Amana Lake within the Amana Sustainable Development Reserve, a protected area, while the dead boto was found floating in the unprotected Tefe Lake.

Both locations are in the northwestern Brazilian state of Amazonas.

Crucially, no parts of the dolphins' bodies had been harvested, the researchers report in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation.

In some areas in the Amazonian basin, particularly in Colombia and Brazil, dolphins are killed for their body parts which are sold.

"The genital organs and eyes of tucuxis and botos are sometimes sold as amulets in popular markets of some Amazonian cities," says Loch.

She also explains that there is a growing trend toward using boto meat and blubber as bait to catch a scavenging catfish called the 'piracatinga' or Calophysus macropterus.

"This practice is possibly widespread in the Brazilian Amazon and may severely threaten [the boto's] conservation," Loch says.

But the three carcasses were unmolested apart from the initial fatal wounds.

That means that fishermen are killing the dolphins simply to eliminate rather than exploit them.

"Aquatic mammals such as whales, dolphins and sea lions are frequently seen as unwanted competitors for fisheries resources," says Loch. "This sense is also widespread in the Amazonian region, especially among fishermen."

Loch's team think the fishermen suspect the dolphins of taking too many fish, both from the river and from their nets, and damaging their fishing gear in the process.

Cultural beliefs, myths and superstitions may also be driving some of the killings.

For example, in some parts of the Amazonian, the boto is traditionally viewed as a mischievous and tempestuous being, both feared and respected.

In extreme cases, it is thought the dolphins transform themselves into handsome men who come ashore and seduce young women, which explains why their reproductive organs are sold as charms.

But while such beliefs sometimes protect the boto and other dolphins from harm, they can also lead people to kill them out of fear or to prevent unexpected teenage pregnancies.

The researchers say the three carcasses suggest that many more Amazonian dolphins are being intentionally killed, and the practice may pose a significant threat to their conservation.

An extensive education program must be started to mitigate the problem, Loch says.

"Environmental education activities with school children are fundamental to avoid these conflicts in the future," she says.

"Amazonian dolphins play an important role in the local culture of Amazonian region, and positive aspects of this influence should be reinforced and encouraged."

"Negative myths and legends linked to undesired pregnancy of women and enchantment of people should be respected as part of their culture, but should be clarified and negative attitudes towards animals should be discouraged."

Please click the following link to see photos of the beloved dolphins.


Dolphin loved for inability to jump dies at aquarium

A dolphin at an aquarium in Tokyo's Minato Ward who was popular for his inability to jump has died from a stomach disease, officials said.
According to the Epson Shinagawa Aqua Stadium, which is located in the Shinagawa Prince Hotel in Minato Ward, the male Pacific white-sided dolphin -- dubbed "Lucky" -- lived for around 17 years. In 1999, Lucky got caught in a fishing net with four other dolphins in the Sea off Japan, and was initially taken to an aquarium in Yokohama.

He was later sent to the Shinagawa aquarium where he became popular for his inability to jump.


Friday, 7 August 2009

Dolphin jumps into Marco woman's boat. Napels

Talk about your fish tales — and this one’s even true.

A bottlenose dolphin leapt into a Marco Island woman’s deck boat Tuesday afternoon, triggering one of the strangest marine mammal rescues in recent memory at the Collier Boulevard boat ramp.

Dee Boge, 66, was returning from lunch on Goodland with five friends when the dolphin leapt into her 22-foot Hurricane deck boat south of the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge.

Boge’s friends, Marge and John Superits, their son Mark, and their two teen-aged grandchildren from Illinois, Nicole and J.T., were in the boat when she noticed a pod of dolphins nearby and piloted the boat for a closer look.

As they enjoyed the show, one of the dolphins jumped out of the water, swirled around in front of the boat and came down on the boat’s front deck, right in the aisle, she said.

“It was unbelievable,” Boge said, still breathless hours after the close encounter. “We were like ‘Oh my god, oh my god, how are we going to get this dolphin off my boat.”’

Boge called SeaTow, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission called her back with advice to keep the dolphin wet and to roll it onto its stomach instead of on its side.

The dolphin was thrashing around at first, but later calmed down, Boge said. It appeared not to have been injured except for a cut above its eye. No one on board was hurt, she said.

Boge went to the Collier Boulevard boat ramp, where officers from Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Conservation Commission, Collier County Animal Control and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office met her about 2:45 p.m.

Rookery Bay staff took measurements of the dolphin, checked it for injuries, checked and timed its breathing and marked its dorsal fin with a water-resistant grease marker for future identification, Rookery Bay resources stewardship coordinator Jeff Carter said.

Everything checked out OK, and workers used a stretcher to put the dolphin back in the water. Carter estimated the dolphin weighed about 120 pounds.

The dolphin swam away, leaving Boge with a story of a lifetime.

“I still can’t get over the shock of it,” she said, back at home around 5 p.m. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing. I hope it never happens again.”

Chances are it won’t.

More than 20 years in the marine patrol business, and he’s never seen anything like it, Conservation Commission Capt. Jayson Horadam said.

“Fish, yeah. Tarpon, yeah. Barracuda, yeah, but never a very intelligent dolphin,” he said.

Still, officials urge boaters to stay a safe distance from dolphins when they are feeding.

The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits harassing or harming dolphins, but Tuesday’s incident didn’t rise to the level of a violation, Horadam said.

“This was just a bad luck day for the dolphin,” he said.


Trapped Porpoise Dies In Rescue Attempt. CA, USA

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Marine rescue workers carefully lifted a trapped male porpoise out of a small Santa Clara creek Thursday, but lost the race against time while en route to a Sausalito recovery facility, authorities said.

The porpoise – nicknamed Bucky by firefighters -- was first spotted in San Tomas Aquino Creek near the Great America Theme Park in Santa Clara early Thursday morning. A rescue crew from the Marin Marine Mammal Center did not arrive on the scene for hours and by that time the mammal was in severe distress.

Marine Mammal Center spokesman Jim Oswald said the center received a call around 10:30 a.m. about a porpoise or dolphin that had found its way into the creek located 3-5 miles from the San Francisco Bay.

A crowd quickly gathered on a foot bridge spanning the waterway as the porpoise swam nervously back and forth.

Oswald said the rescue team which arrived in the early afternoon hours consisted of two volunteers and a veterinarian, who assessed the animal's medical condition. However, it was feared the attempt came too late.

The porpoise was placed in a van, wrapped in wet blankets and buckets of water were taken aboard to keep it wet.


A 'Blue Horizon' in view for SeaWorld San Diego. CA, USA

It's coming soon to SeaWorld (not soon enough if you're heading there this summer, but . . . soon).

"Blue Horizons” is billed as a theatrical spectacle uniting sea and sky in a Broadway-style, whale of a show.

Make that dolphin of a show, as it says here that the bottlenose variety teams up with exotic birds and acrobatic humans in the new show.

“Blue Horizons” stars a young character named Marina, a girl whose imagination launches the array of dolphins, pilot whales and a exotic birds into an entertaining spectacle.

Stanley Meyer is the set designer and show consultant, best known for his work on the Broadway musical ”Beauty and the Beast.”

Hopefully they've worked out any kinks in the act, as the same really big “Blue Horizons” show has been hitting the bricks at SeaWorld Orlando since 2005.

That means this season is your final chance to catch "Dolphin Discovery.” The current show in what is now known as Dolphin Stadium made its debut in 1996. Park officials say it's time to draw the curtains on one of the longest running shows in the park’s 45-year history.

Dolphin Stadium will give way to a new look for the “Blue Horizons,” show, including a new set, new gear for the aerialists and divers, a new sound system and of course, more seating for an additional 700 guests.


Dolphin deaths high as mystery toxin kills dogs. New Zealand

A marine ecologist is investigating whether there is a link between a high number of dolphin deaths in the Hauraki Gulf and the deaths of other sea life and dogs around Auckland.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service is warning the public, particularly children, to stay off the eastern beaches while authorities find the cause of the problem.

At least two dogs have died and several others have become ill.

Massey University Marine Ecologist Karen Stockin says seven dolphins have died in a three-week period, an unprecedented number for this time of year.

She is examining the dolphins' bodies to find the cause of their deaths, but says it is too early to confirm whether they died from the same thing that is killing other sea life and dogs.

Biosecurity officials say the mystery toxin does not appear to pose a significant biosecurity risk.

MAF Biosecurity senior animals response advisor Naya Brangenberg says the dogs' symptoms suggest they came into contact with toxic algae.

She says officials may never find what is causing the deaths because there are so many possibilities. More tests are expected next week.


Two beluga whales pregnant at Shedd. IL, USA

Something’s in the water at the Shedd Aquarium.

Puiji and Naya, two of the aquarium’s beluga whales, are pregnant after enjoying some big love with male beluga Naluark, aquarium officials announced Tuesday.

What can the belugas expect while expecting?

Frequent ultrasounds masquerading as massages, 300 pound weight gain and a water birth which includes the delivery of not only a five-foot-long beluga calf but a 50-pound placenta, said Ken Ramirez, Shedd’s senior vice president of animal collections and training.

“It’s a very exciting time but also a very nervous time,” Ramirez said.

And the nerves, remarkably, come from aquarium staff, not the whales, whose 14 to 16 month gestation and lonely labor results in the birth of an average 125 pound calf.

In beluga habitats, love ‘em and leave ‘em is the status quo.

“In the wild males spend most of their time with other males,” Ramirez said. “They move in to breed with as many females as they can during breeding season. Then they never see the mother or calf again.”

If these two calves survive, they will join four others born at the Shedd Aquarium, part of a successful 12-year-old beluga breeding partnership which includes 35 whales in eight different North American locations.

“We’re very careful about making sure we preserve genetic diversity — who is related to whom,” Ramirez said. “With eight different organizations working together we can treat the entire population as one.”

Puiji, Naya and Naluark mated in Chicago, before the whales were moved to Mystic, Conn. during the Shedd’s recent renovation.

This isn’t the first pregnancy for either whale, or the first time two whales have been pregnant together at the Shedd.

Naya’s first calf was stillborn, and Puiji’s first calf died shortly after childbirth.

Her second calf, Bella, is a 3-year-old living at Shedd.

Naluark is the father of Bella as well as Miki, who turns 2 years old Aug. 17.

Puiji’s baby could be born as early as this month and as late as October. Naya is due September through November.

The pregnant whales currently remain on display at the Shedd.


King salmon vanishing in Alaska, smokehouses empty

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Yukon River smokehouses should be filled this summer with oil-rich strips of king salmon — long used by Alaska Natives as a high-energy food to get through the long Alaska winters. But they're mostly empty.

The kings failed to show up, and not just in the Yukon.

One Alaska river after another has been closed to king fishing this summer because significant numbers of fish failed to return to spawn. The dismally weak return follows weak runs last summer and poor runs in 2007, which also resulted in emergency fishing closures.

"It is going to be a tough winter, no two ways about it," said Leslie Hunter, a 67-year-old store owner and commercial fisherman from the Yup'ik Eskimo village of Marshall in western Alaska.

Federal and state fisheries biologists are looking into the mystery.

King salmon spend years in the Bering Sea before returning as adults to rivers where they were born to spawn and die. Biologists speculate that the mostly likely cause was a shift in Pacific Ocean currents, but food availability, changing river conditions and predator-prey relationships could be affecting the fish.

People living along the Yukon River think they know what is to blame — pollock fishery. The fishery — the nation's largest — removes about 1 million metric tons of pollock each year from the eastern Bering Sea. Its wholesale value is nearly $1 billion.

King salmon get caught in the huge pollock trawl nets, and the dead kings are counted and most are thrown back into the ocean. Some are donated to the needy.

"We do know for a fact that the pollock fishery is slaughtering wholesale and wiping out the king salmon stocks out there that are coming into all the major tributaries," said Nick Andrew Jr., executive director of the Ohagamuit Traditional Council. "The pollock fishery is taking away our way of living."

Since 2000, the incidental number of king salmon caught has skyrocketed, reaching over 120,000 kings in 2007. A substantial portion of those fish were bound for western Alaska rivers. If those fish had lived, an estimated 78,000 adult fish would have returned to rivers from the Pacific Northwest to Western Alaska.

Efforts to reduce bycatch are not new. In 2006, bycatch rules were adopted allowing the pollock fleet to move from areas where lots of kings were being inadvertently caught, thereby avoiding large-scale fishing closures. Then, 2007 happaned, and it was back to the drawing board.

Last April, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the organization that manages ocean fish, passed a hard cap on the pollock fishery. Beginning in 2011, the portion of the fleet that participates in the program is allowed 60,000 kings a year. If the cap is reached, the fishery shuts down. Those who don't participate have a lower cap — 47,591 fish.

The loss of the kings is devastating village economies. These are the same Yukon River villages where spring floods swept away homes, as well as boats, nets and smokehouses. There's no money to buy anything, Andrew said.

"It is crippling the economy in all of the rivers where we depend on commercial fishing for income," he said.

Bycatch plays a role but is not the only reason for the vanishing kings, said Diana Stram, a fishery management plan coordinator at the council.

Herman Savikko, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist, agreed. He pointed to changing ocean currents, plankton blooms and even the carnivorous nature of salmon. River conditions could be changing, too, he said.

A lot isn't known about what happens to king salmon in the ocean, Savikko said. "Once the fish enter the marine environment it just is a big black box," he said.

In a good year, Kwik'pak Fisheries L.L.C. in Emmonak on the lower Yukon employs between 200 and 300 people. This summer, only about 30 people have been hired. Kwik'pak is the largest employer in the region.

General manager Jack Schultheis said when the king fishery was shut down, the summer chum salmon run was curtailed as well, even though a good number of chums were returning to the river.

The lower Yukon villages are economically devastated, he said.

Fishermen used to get between $5 million and $10 million from the fishery. Last year, it was $1.1 million.

That means instead of making between $20,000 and $30,000 in the 1970s, fishermen are making just a few thousand dollars now, and that in villages where fuel costs $8 a gallon, milk is $15 a gallon and a T-bone steak costs $25, he said.

It's hard to see the villages in such economic hardship but the Yukon should be managed conservatively until the problem of the disappearing kings is better understood, Schultheis said.

"For 50 years, it was an extremely stable fishery," he said.


Sunday, 26 July 2009

Gulf World's Baby Dolphin Dies Suddenly

A male Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin who was born on July 21 at Gulf World Marine Park has died, park officials said Wednesday. It is unclear what caused the animal's death, park officials said in a news release.

Sandy, a 24 year-old Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin gave birth after a 12-month gestational period. The mother and calf were being housed with Luna, the mother’s 4 year-old daughter, and another young female Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin named Indy.

A necropsy will be performed today to hopefully learn more about the untimely death, officials said in a news release.


Friday, 24 July 2009

Bottlenose Dolphin Mark died

The dolphin Mark, who charmed the visitors of the Constanta Dolphin Reservation for 23 years, died Wednesday night. The dolphin, a great fan of the band Las Ketchup, would have turned 32 in a couple of days. Mark’s death leaves the Dolphin Reservation with no dolphins.

According to the manager of the Constanta Natural Sciences Museums’ Centre, Mr. Adrian Mihai Manastireanu, the dolphin had died at 23.46, without any previous signs of a disease, although he was under medical surveillance.

“It was carefully watched by our veterinary. It started this season in a fabulous condition, and this is why it had three daily shows. It never showed any sign of an illness… Ten minutes before, it seemed perfectly healthy. And suddenly its nostril started bleeding, and in ten minutes, it was gone,” Adrian Manastireanu declared.

The dolphin Mark was a representative of the Tursiops Truncatus species from the Black Sea and was the most long-lived dolphin of the Constanta Reservation, under the circumstances that the average life span of his species is 25 – 30 years.

On August 28, Mark was to celebrate, beside the audience, another year spent at the Dolphin Reservation, and was to be offered, during a performance, a mackerel cake, his favourite food. According to Adrian Manastireanu, the Dolphin Reservation only has two sea lions at the time being, the couple Lorry and John, and the management of the institution is negotiating the purchase of new animals with an organization in China.

In 1986, on August 28, five dolphins from the Tursiops Truncatus species were brought to the Constanta Dolphin Reservation, This species is best adapted to captivity, and easily tamable, compared to the rest of the species living in the Black Sea: Delfinus Delphis Ponticus and Phocaena Phocaena Relicta. Of all five dolphins captured, Mark was the one who drew everyone’s attention. Longtime employees of the Dolphin Reservation mentioned that he was the leader of the group from the very beginning, as he had a strong personality.

The cause of death is yet to be established at the autopsy.


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Oldest dolphin in Germany died

40-year old, bottlenose dolphin Eva died on July 22 at Dolphinarium Nürnberg. For many months she showed signs of age-related weakness. She recovered in Spring, but two weeks ago she had troubles to follow hand signals which was noticed by the trainers. Yesterday she also refused to eat and around 2.30 pm her state of health got worse. She had trouble breathing and surfacing. Trainers grabbed her and brought her back to the surface but Eva had already died. A necropsy revealed she died of encephalitis. She lived at Nürnberg since January 8, 1982, where she raised 4 calves, Naomi, Nemo, Nando and Noah. She was one of the oldest bottlenose dolphins in Europe.


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Britain On Look-Out For Dolphins

Fans of marine wildlife hoping to do some dolphin and whale watching this summer have been urged to head to Britain's beaches.

As the school holidays begin, the public are urged to look for the creatures along the coast, as well as keeping an eye out for washed-up jellyfish.

Two campaigns hope to engage the public in unearthing more about Britain's marine wildlife.

The launch of the National Whale and Dolphin Watch comes in the same week as the annual National Jellyfish Survey.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is hoping to uncover further details about the little-known habits of British jellyfish.

Large jellyfish blooms have already been reported washing up on beaches in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man and, as the UK's seas warm up during the summer, more are expected.

The moon jellyfish is the most widespread species, occurring all around the UK coast from May.

The lion's mane jellyfish has the most powerful and painful sting, though it is rarely seen south of the Irish Sea.

The MCS also received many reports of the usually rare Portuguese Man-of-War from beaches in south-west England last summer, but none have been spotted so far this year.

Peter Richardson, MCS Biodiversity Programme Manager, said: "We started receiving reports of stranded Lion's Mane jellyfish off Wales and Northern Ireland in June.

"Lion's mane jellyfish and some other species can sting, so as ever, we are encouraging holidaymakers to take part in our national jellyfish survey, but the key message is look, don't touch!"

Dolphins and whales may be more difficult to spot, but it may surprise many people to know that 28 different species of dolphin alone live off the UK coast.

Run annually by the Sea Watch Foundation, the national survey will provide a snapshot of the distribution of cetaceans (the collective term for whales, dolphins and porpoises) around the British Isles and should help scientists to understand their behaviour.

Sea Watch Foundation Sightings Officer, Gemma Veneruso said: "The more we can understand about our marine mammals, the more we can help ensure the best measures are put in place to save them."

Sightings of the Common Dolphin, Striped Dolphin, Minke Whale and Humpback Whale have all increased over the last few years.

There have been 45 sightings reported since Sunday.

Bayworld Dolphins Doing Great in Hong Kong

BAYWORLD‘S beloved dolphins Domino and Dumisa have arrived safely in Hong Kong after leaving Port Elizabeth on Wednesday night.

Spokesman Sandra Sampayo said the dolphins were doing "great".

With great care and military precision, they were transferred on Wednesday night from the pool where they have spent their whole lives, loaded into a specially designed crate, trucked to the airport and then lifted into a waiting DC8 chartered aircraft.
They left at 9pm bound for Hong Kong. Bayworld senior curator Robyn Greyling and many in her team were in tears.
Lying next to each other in their stretchers beneath a covering of wet towels, the dolphins occasionally lifted their heads and chirruped quietly, but they seemed calm.
Security around the operation has been super-tight because of concerns about the dolphins‘ welfare.
The Herald did not know when they were leaving until Tuesday and agreed to keep the departure time secret to avoid crowds at the airport upsetting the dolphins.
The operation started at 6pm with Greyling summoning Domino and Dumisa to the medical pool with a special whistle, a procedure they have practised for years because they need to regularly be checked by a veterinarian. Two stretchers were lowered into the water and at another instruction the dolphins swam into them.
With an icy wind blowing, Greyling, her colleagues and Ocean Park general curator Grant Abel and chief veterinarian Paolo Martelli waded around, easing the dolphins into position and ensuring their flippers were positioned correctly through holes cut for the purpose.
Members of the team took turns massaging their heads, which they love. They were then winched out the water and half a dozen helpers carried them into the Bayworld carpark where they were winched up again and lowered into their crate.
The bottom of the crate is lined with a layer of foam, and three tons of water will be pumped in beneath this foam to ensure that there is minimal pressure on the dolphins‘ tummies and that they also stay cool.
Because dolphins are mammals, they can breathe out of water for an indefinite time, but their skin has to remain moist.
Although they are mammals, they will not be enjoying a snooze the way we would cooped up on a long flight. This is because dolphins are conscious breathers, meaning that in order to breathe they have to be awake. Instead, they have perfected the technique of cat-napping by “closing down” half their brains.
Abel, an Australian with 30 years‘ experience in similar operations, explained that dolphins also cannot sweat, so it is important to prevent them getting too warm. For this reason, efforts will be made to keep the water pumped into their crates at a constant 18°C.
There are 300 staff at Ocean Park and 44 in the marine mammal department alone.
They are not as “academically inclined” as Bayworld and do not have an historical or cultural section, but they do have other creatures ranging from pandas to many birds.
They receive about five million visitors a year and their blue-chip environmental education centre includes a “theatre” which seats 3500. As part of their education programme, they have established a trust which funds outside conservation projects.
Martelli is one of four resident vets. Talking to The Herald before the operation on Wednesday night, he explained that he and Dr Andrew Mackay, Bayworld‘s consulting vet, would be monitoring the dolphins constantly on the plane to check their anxiety levels. They will use a stethoscope and listen for any untoward signs, and watch out for any irritable moving around.
Sedatives will be administered if necessary, but the dolphins have been well prepared. Greyling and her team have practised the move out of the Bayworld pool, into the crate and across to the airport many times.
Scientific debate on whether there were any genetic differences between Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphins in different parts of the world was still raging, Martelli said.
“These dolphins and ours at Ocean Park are the same sub-species, but dolphins are very tribal in terms of what they eat, for instance.
“This depends on what the prey fish migrations are in that part of the world. But we feed them very similar things as you do, so there should be no problem with them adapting,” he said. “Here, they eat pilchard. There, they will eat herring or squid.”
The partnership established between Bayworld and Ocean Park revolves around introducing Domino and Dumisa into a breeding programme with other dolphins of the same sub-species, to strengthen the genes of their offspring and to avoid possible second generation in-breeding between them.
Bayworld director Sylvia van Zyl said she and her team had been hugely relieved to have found Ocean Park as a partner in this regard. “They are an institution with the will and the means and the experience to make this move a great success.”
The challenge now was for Bayworld to “think out of the box” and find a way to showcase their other hugely valuable animals and exhibits, ranging from historic artefacts to rare fish and endangered creatures like the African penguin, she said.
Just as things were getting busy prior to the start of the operation yesterday evening, a rainbow appeared and hung in the heavens for 15 minutes, right over Bayworld.
Delighted members of the local trans-location team said it was a good omen that the trip would go smoothly and that their beloved dolphins would be happy.


Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Harbour Hector’s identity confirmed. New Zealand

A rare dolphin residing in Wellington Harbour has been confirmed as a male Hector’s dolphin.

Sporting the distinctive rounded dorsal fin which is a characteristic of Hector’s dolphins, he was nicknamed ‘Harbour Hector’ by locals, who have been reporting sightings of him to the Department of Conservation since January.

Keen to find out if the dolphin was a member of the even rarer sub-species of Hector’s dolphin, the Maui dolphin, DOC sent its marine mammal expert Nadine Bott out into the harbour, with the biopsy tool she uses to take tissue samples from humpback whales during DOC’s annual Cook Strait Whale Survey.

“This little guy has been elusive but we were able to take a biopsy sample, which has confirmed that he is from the South Island population of Hector’s, of which there are only around 7000 in existence.”

Taking a biopsy sample involves firing a small light-weight dart that hits the dolphin, bounces off and floats, retaining a small bit of tissue sample on the tip.

“It’s important that we take these samples to help us understand these vulnerable species better. It’s a safe technique for identifying marine mammals and doesn’t cause them any harm,” Ms Bott said.

The Hector’s dolphin is one of the smallest, rarest dolphins in the world, and the Maui dolphin is even rarer, with only around 110 living along the North Island’s west coast.

While this is the first live Hector’s dolphin ever recorded in Wellington Harbour, New Zealand has an interesting history of wild solitary dolphin visits. More famous examples include: Pelorus Jack a Risso’s dolphin known for escorting boats in the Cook Strait in the late 1800s; Opo, the Bottlenose dolphin in the Hokianga harbour in the 1950s, and more recently Moko the Bottlenose dolphin that has been visiting the Mahia peninsula since 2007.

While DOC hasn’t received any reports of sightings of ‘Harbour Hector’ since May, if you are lucky enough to spot him or any other marine mammals it is important to follow these simple rules:

On shore
• Do not disturb, harass or make loud noises near marine mammals.
• Do not feed or throw any rubbish near them
• Avoid sudden or repeated changes in speed or direction of any vessel or aircraft near a marine mammal.
• There should be no more than three vessels and/or aircraft within 300 metres of any marine mammal.

At sea
• Ensure that you travel no faster than idle or ‘no wake’ speed within 300 metres of any marine mammal.
• Approach whales and dolphins from behind and to the side.
• Do not circle them, obstruct their path or cut through any group.
• Idle slowly away. Speed may be gradually increased to out-distance dolphins and should not exceed 10 knots within 300 metres of any dolphin.

In the air
• Aircraft should maintain a horizontal distance of greater than 150 metres when flying near any marine mammal.
• Avoid flying or imposing a shadow directly over a marine mammal either at sea or on shore.

Take care with set nets
• Stay with your net at all times.
• Don’t net if dolphins, seals or diving birds are nearby.
• REMEMBER set nets catch more than fish.

A guide for responsible set netting can be obtained from your local Ministry of Fisheries office, or visit

All seals, dolphins, whales and porpoises are fully protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. Offences carry penalties of up to six months imprisonment or fines up to $250,000 and further fines of up to $10,000 for every marine mammal in respect of which the offence is committed.

The rules are outlined in a brochure entitled Sharing our coasts with marine mammals which can be obtained from DOC offices or downloaded from the marine mammals section of the DOC website:>conservation>native animals>marine mammals

Refer to the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations 1992 for a complete list of conditions prescribing behaviour around marine mammals. Visit:

What to do if you see a Hector’s or Maui’s dolphin in the North Island
Report sightings of Hector’s or Maui’s dolphins to DOC, preferably as soon as possible, by calling the 0800 DOCHOT line (0800 36 24 68). DOC needs to know the date, time and location of the sighting, the number of dolphins, whether there were any calves, and any other observations regarding their behaviour. If possible, take a photograph (from a camera or mobile phone) of the dolphins with a land feature in the background and a record of the GPS position of the sighting.

Further Information:
Hector’s dolphins have distinctive grey, white and black markings and a short snout. They are the only New Zealand dolphins with a rounded black dorsal fin. Dolphins are generally found close to shore travelling alone, or in groups or pods of several dolphins. They’re often seen in water less than 20 metres deep, but may also range further offshore. Females can be up to 1.7 meters long and weigh between 40-60 kilograms. Males are slightly smaller and lighter than females.
For more information about Hector’s dolphins, the threats they face and what you can do to help, visit the DOC website:


Dolphin baby now at risk, expert fears. New Zealand

A marine mammal expert is "hoping like hell" a dolphin rescued in the Bay of Islands this week finds its calf before it's too late.

The dolphin has been seen alive and well since it was rescued from a sandbar in Kerikeri Inlet - but there are concerns for its five-month-old calf, which cannot survive for long without its mother's milk.

The distressed dolphin was spotted on a sandbar about 10m from the water, stuck on a bed of oysters, about 8am on Thursday. Justin Fitton, a caretaker at Aroha Island nature reserve, directed the rescue until DoC rangers arrived. The dolphin was returned to the water around 10am.

By studying photos of the dolphin's distinctive dorsal fin, Jo "Floppy" Halliday of Project Jonah identified it as a 10 to 15-year-old female bottlenose known as Kiwi.

Ms Halliday said Kiwi was well known and had been coming into the Bay of Islands for at least six years.

Since giving birth early this year - the calf, Squirt, was thought to be her first - she had lived with a pod of mostly other females and juveniles.

Ms Halliday, who works as a Fullers dolphin guide, said she spotted Kiwi on her own in Albert Channel, in the eastern Bay of Islands, later on Thursday. The dolphin seemed to be in good health but Ms Halliday said her heart sank to see Kiwi without her calf.

Fresh injuries on Kiwi's belly were not serious and probably the result of being stranded on oysters.

Ms Halliday hoped Squirt was being looked after by other females in the pod, and that the two would find each other soon. All dolphins had a distinctive "signature whistle" which could carry up to 20km under water.

"We're just hoping like hell they find each other ... he really needs her milk, especially at this time of year when he needs to keep his fat levels up."

Ms Halliday said the five-month-old calf was too young to catch fish on its own and it was hard to know what had caused the stranding.

She had seen Kiwi and Squirt only a day earlier and noticed the pod was unusually subdued, perhaps because they had detected orca, their natural predators.

Kiwi could have made a mistake while chasing fish or playing with Squirt, ending up stuck on the sandbar just as the tide was going out.

Ms Halliday was pleased Mr Fitton had completed a Project Jonah marine mammal rescue course, and had been able to put the lessons into practice.

Aroha Island staff continued combing the shore yesterday in case Squirt was also stranded somewhere.


Ganges River Dolphin population falls below 300, faces new threat from oil.

The Ganges River Dolphin faces a high risk of extinction in India's Brahmaputra river system unless critical habitat is protected, report conservationists.

Once abundant in the Ganges and Brahmaputra river systems in India and Bangladesh, the population of the Ganges River Dolphins has fallen sharply over the past century due to accidental bycatch by fishermen, direct killing for their meat and oil, and diversion of water for agriculture.

Scientists estimate that only 2,000 remain, of which 240-300 survive in the Brahmaputra, according to a new survey by IUCN researchers, who warn the Brahmaputra population is also imperiled by new threats, including dam building and prospecting for oil.

“Our research shows accidental killing through fisheries by-catch, followed by poaching for oil, are the major threats to the dolphins of the Brahmaputra river system,” says Project Leader Abdul Wakid. “Their habitat is also being degraded by human activities. Dam building and a proposed seismic survey in the Brahmaputra river are potential threats.”

Oil exploration, which would involve using explosives and airguns on the bed of the Brahmaputra River, has "potentially disastrous implications for Ganges River dolphins," according to the IUCN report, which warns that the loss of dolphins could have impact for local communities that rely on dolphin tourism. IUCN says that involving communities in conservation will be critical to saving dolphins in the Brahmaputra.



Gulf World Marine Park: "It's a Boy!"

Gulf World Marine Park is proud to announce the birth of a male Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin.

At 7:06 a.m on Tuesday, Sandy, a 24 year-old Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin gave birth after a 12-month gestational period. Sandy and her calf is presently housed with Luna, the Mother’s 4 year-old daughter, and another young female Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin named Indy.

Gulf World’s Veterinarian and marine mammal staff monitored the pregnancy throughout its term, via ultrasound.

The calf nurses frequently and can be seen drifting in the safety of his mother’s slipstream. Dolphin calves nurse for up to two years and can begin supplementing their diets with fish as early as 6 months of age.


Monday, 20 July 2009

The Complete Guide To: Whale & dolphin watching.

As a week devoted to these marvellous marine mammals begins, Harriet O'Brien explores the best places to encounter them in the wild

Breach encounters...
It is a breathtaking and implausible sight. The sea seems to part suddenly and a vast creature, the size of a double-decker bus and more, hurls itself out of the water. For several seconds you take in its enormity as its moves through the air, and then it crashes down into the ocean, rapidly disappearing back to the depths. Exactly why a whale breaches remains a mystery, but the phenomenon constitutes one of the greatest thrills in wildlife watching.

Other encounters are wonderfully impressive: seeing a cloud of bubbles or a spout, watching a gigantic shape come to the surface of the water, witnessing a huge tail flipping out of the sea and then receding. Meanwhile there's a palpable feeling of joy in watching or being among a school of dolphins or shy porpoise. And a great sense of wonder, too, at these highly intelligent, highly communicative creatures.

Cetacean – the collective term for whales, dolphins and porpoises – derives from the Greek word for sea monster. These amazing mammals are peculiarly well adapted for aquatic life. They breathe near the surface of the water through blowholes at the tops of their heads; their forelimbs are flippers while their hind legs are tiny and hidden within their bodies; their tails are especially powerful thanks to two fin-like "flukes" at the end. The 80 or so species (the number keeps increasing as scientists learn more) are classified in two subgroups, essentially those with and those without teeth.

Odontocetes prey on fish and other game, so need teeth (the narwhal whale has a tusk). This group includes oceanic dolphins, river dolphins and porpoises as well as orcas (or killer whales) and deep-diving, large-brained sperm whales. Toothless baleen whales are gentle giants, filter-feeding on minuscule marine organisms and ranging in shape from humpback whales to prodigious blue whales, the largest animals ever to exist in the world – bigger, even, than the largest dinosaur.

Do I have to travel far to see them?
At this time of year, no. Indeed if you live near the coast you may find that you and your binoculars barely need to leave home. Dolphins in particular, but sometimes porpoises and whales, can be seen all around the shores of the UK – if you're lucky. In total, 28 species of cetacean have been recorded in British and Irish waters, the most frequent sightings being from boats, although seeing these sea mammals from land – particularly headlands – is by no means a rarity.

What's more, this week you can go whale and dolphin watching with real sense of purpose. The eighth annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch week runs from today until 26 July.

The survey is organised by the marine conservation charity Sea Watch (084...; which is aiming to involve the public as much as possible in its efforts. Anyone can take part, either by going to specific sites and helping trained observers or by undertaking their own independent dolphin and whale watches and recording sightings on forms downloadable from the Sea Watch website, where species identification notes are also available.

The charity's dedicated watching areas are dotted around the country – Poole Bay in Dorset, Blackpool, Aberystwyth and Aberdeen being just some of the sites. Information about these and other locations as well as events and boat survey trips (for which a small fee is payable) is on the charity's website. The research gathered during the week's watch will help in assessing the distribution and numbers of sea mammals around our coasts and ultimately in forming conversation policies.

So where's best in Britain?
"Scotland probably offers the best viewing – and the greatest diversity," says Gemma Veneruso, sightings officer at Sea Watch. Off the west coast, fin and minke whales are fairly regularly seen, while orcas are not uncommon and Risso's, bottlenose and white-beaked dolphins are frequently sighted. Particularly rewarding viewing locations include areas around Cape Wrath, Red Point (south of Gairloch), Ardnamurchan Point and Mull.

Set up 25 years ago, Sea Life Surveys (016...; sealifesurveys .com) is said to be Scotland's most experienced whale and dolphin watching operator and it provides a variety of trips from Mull, with options including a full-day "whale explorer" cruise.

Off Scotland's east coast, pilot whales, orcas, porpoises and various dolphin species are often seen. Hotspots include areas north of Eyemouth, the stretch of coast between Dundee and Aberdeen, and most of all, the Moray Firth where there is a resident population of about 130 bottlenose dolphins. Among those offering sea trips in the locality is Ecoventures (013...; based at Cromarty.

Another notable population of bottlenose dolphins is resident in Cardigan Bay in west Wales. Trips around the bay to see not only dolphins but also harbour porpoises and grey seals are provided by New Quay Boat Trips (015...; from New Quay harbour.

And getting warmer?
While most whale watching in Europe is a summer activity (generally between May and October), the Canary Islands offer year-round viewing. Bottlenose dolphins and at least 400 pilot whales are resident in an area just south of Tenerife while beaked and sperm whales can also be seen in these waters. One of the most established operators here is the Nostramo Group (00 ...; offering trips from Puerto Colon in a glass-bottomed catamaran (booking is essential). Or head to Tarifa on the tip of mainland Spain from where bottlenose and striped dolphins can be sighted year-round in the Straits of Gibraltar, while sperm whales – and sometimes orcas – are summer visitors. Among those arranging spring and summer boat trips is Whale Watch Tarifa (00 ...;, a branch of the educational association Whale Watch España.

Better still is the prime whale-watching outpost of Portugal, theV CAzores archipelago in the Atlantic – almost midway between Europe and America. Between April and September, the waters around these green, much-rained-on islands attract a fabulous variety of cetaceans, from massive blue whales to orcas and spotted and striped dolphins. You may be lucky enough to see some species from the land, but a better bet is join a boat trip – there are a number of operators at Horta Harbour including Peter Café Sport (00 ...; Or sign up for a seven-day catamaran adventure with Whale Watch Azores (00 ...;, which combines tourism with serious research.

Or colder?
Iceland is northern Europe's greatest haven for whales – and whale watchers. Orcas, blue whales, minke, fin and humpback whales, white-beaked dolphin, harbour porpoises and more are regularly seen between May and October in the waters here. There are numerous whale-watching outfits dotted around the coast. You can even step off the plane and join a boat trip. The Whale and Dolphin Spotting company (00 ...; runs three-hour excursions from Keflavik harbour, five minutes from the airport. But for a real treat head to Husavik in the north east. Here you can immerse yourself in whale culture, from natural history to art, at the Husavik Whale Centre (open daily June to September; 00 ...; and then take a boat trip with North Sailing (00 ...; on whose tours 73 blue whales and 484 humpbacks were spotted last summer.

Norway also presents excellent whale-watching opportunities, with a backdrop of spectacularly beautiful fjord country. Head to the harbour at pretty Andenes in the north to join a summer excursion with Whale Safari (00 ...; on which you are almost guaranteed to see sperm whales and possibly orcas and minke whales too.

A few kilometres further south, Tysefjord offers the prospect of some stunning winter whale watching. Between November and February the waters here provide winter feeding for quantities of herring (although numbers have recently declined slightly). The fish are pursued by orcas, and also by white-tailed eagles.

Orca Tysefjord arranges winter orca-watching trips on big boats and inflatable dinghies from Bognes; you can find out more and make bookings through the Tysfjord tourist centre, 00 ...;

Can I go further afield?
For superb whale watching without leaving dry land, make for Walker Bay on the Western Cape of South Africa. Here the cliffs around the town of Hermanus provide amazing vantage points for spotting Southern Right whales – particularly during the calving season, between July and December. These slow-swimming plankton-feeding cetaceans have been known to come within 5 metres of the shore (more information on

Alaska presents surprisingly accessible nature watching, about three hours' drive from Anchorage. The Kenai Peninsula is a thumb of land slightly bigger than Belgium that dangles into the Gulf of Alaska and offers stupendous sea sights off the fjords of its eastern side. In spring and summer, take a day's boat excursion from the bustling harbour town of Seward and you are almost bound to see orcas and humpback whales – as well as puffins, sea lions and seals. Trips are arranged by Kenai Fjords Tours (00 1 877...;

Or head to Cape Cod, whose waters are a summer feeding area for humpbacks – who sensibly spend their winters in the Caribbean. Until the end of October, two daily whale-watching boat trips are offered by Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises (00 1 508 362 6088;, leaving from Barnstable Harbor.

Among the world's other prime destinations for whale watching is Kaikoura on New Zealand's South Island. Due to a collision of currents in the waters here there is an abundance of food for sperm whales, which can be seen all year round. And that's by no means all: pilot, humpback, blue and southern right whales are also known to frequent the area. In addition, Kaikoura attracts enormous quantities of seabirds, including 14 types of petrel. Boat tours are arranged by Whale Watch Kaikoura (00 64 3319 6767; owned and run by indigenous Kati Kuri Maoris.

What about river life?
There are currently known to be three species of river dolphin – small, moving like quick-silver and very tricky to see. The pink boto dolphin lives in South America and is most populous in the Amazon and its tributaries. Meanwhile the Franciscana dolphin lives in the estuaries on the south-eastern coast of South America. The Ganges and Indus dolphin is primarily found in the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers of India. Fortunately you have a very good chance of seeing these rare creatures on cruises along a stretch of the Brahmaputra in Assam – but you have to look hard: the dolphins arch out of the water and disappear back again in an instant, a tiny blur of a brown curve with a long snout. The trips are run by Assam Bengal Navigation, with offices in Guwahati and in Rutland (01572 821121;

Until recently there was a fourth species. But in August 2007 China's Yangtze river dolphin, also known as the baiji, was declared extinct. Scientists cited human activities, from electrofishing to the construction of dams, as the cause.

And remote adventure?
Several British tour operators offer dedicated whale-watching holidays in out-of-the-way destinations. Out of the Blue (0845 290 3218;, for example, specialises in whale and dolphin trips anywhere from the Shetland Islands to Alaska and Kamchatka, in Russia. The company is affiliated to the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society (01249 449500; to which it makes a donation for every booking taken. One of its most intriguing ventures is a trip to Patagonia to see orcas, southern right whales, sea lions, glaciers and more. The 13-night holiday departs 1 November and costs from £3,500 per person (based on two sharing), which includes flights to Buenos Aires from Heathrow, onward domestic flights and ground transport, accommodation, wildlife trips, guidance and some meals.

In the northern hemisphere, Discover the World (01737 218 800; offers a trip to remote reaches of Newfoundland. Humpback whales are very frequently sighted here and you may even see them lunge feeding on the beach. Other wildlife encounters may well include puffins, seals and moose. With departures until the end of August, the eight-night holiday costs from £2,350 per person (based on two sharing), which covers flights from Heathrow via Halifax to St John's, accommodation, ground and sea transport, entry fees, guidance and some meals.

Other travel companies offering whale-watching expedition holidays include Wildlife Worldwide (0845 130 6982; and Naturetrek (01962 733051;

Carnage to conservation
Save the Whale: the high-profile campaign of the 1970s drew attention to commercial whaling and its disastrous results for the world's cetacean population – the humpback whale, for example, was teetering on extinction. In 1986 a moratorium on commercial whaling came into effect and since then numbers have improved, although several species – such as the blue whale, the narwhal whale and the North Atlantic right whale – are classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union (

The rapid growth of whale watching has strengthened public awareness of the need for conservation. Just 20 years ago, for instance, Iceland was still a significant whaling centre. The first whale watching ventures started there in 1995 and now Iceland is among the world's leaders in marine tourism. (It is, though, considering a resumption of commercial whale hunting. Meanwhile Japan has for years flouted the moratorium.)

Vanessa Williams-Grey, whale watching programmes manager at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, encourages us to see the great mammals of seas but she acknowledges that in some instances whale watching has become a victim of its own success. Some operators, she says, try to cash in on reliable whale-sighting areas, leading to overcrowding that can frighten and displace animals from their preferred habitats. And she warns against encroaching too much on whales and dolphins. Many people want to swim with these mammals but, she says, "They are wild animals that deserve space and privacy."