Sunday, 26 July 2009
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
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
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
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.
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
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:
• 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.
• 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 www.fish.govt.nz
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: www.doc.govt.nz>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: www.legislation.govt.nz.
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.
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:
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.
PROTECTION OF ENDANGERED GANGES RIVER DOLPHIN IN BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER, ASSAM, INDIA (PDF)
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