Monday, November 28, 2005

Increasing underwater sounds affect dolphins

Imagine living in a world so loud that you can't hear what anyone is saying, and you're so disoriented from the noise that you can't even find your way home. That is the hidden suffering of one of Earth's most cheerful creatures, the dolphin, in an underwater dimension unknown to most of us on the surface.

According to Sounding the Depths II, a report released this week by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), new evidence indicates that the rising level of intense underwater sound produced by oil and gas exploration, military sonar and other man-made sources poses significant threats to dolphins, whales, fish and other marine species.

"Ocean noise is an insidious form of pollution," said Michael Jasny, the report's principal author. "The tremendous damage it is doing to life in the sea is becoming more evident with each passing year."

In the darkness of the sea, dolphins, whales and other marine animals use sound to navigate while migrating, to locate each other over great distances for mating, to find food, avoid predators, and care for their young. Manmade noise is interfering with all of these natural activities and is testing the ability of marine animals to survive.

For at least four decades, the Navy has employed mid-frequency, high-intensity active sonar as an element of its anti-submarine warfare program. At present, the military is exempt from the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

According to the NRDC, military active sonar works like a floodlight, emitting sound waves that sweep across tens or even hundreds of miles of ocean. Some mid-frequency sonar systems generate over 235 decibels, as loud as the launch of a space shuttle.

Evidence of the harm such a storm of sound can do surfaced in March 2000, when whales of four different species stranded themselves on beaches in the Bahamas following active sonar use by the U.S. Navy in the area. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

In June of 2003, the Center for Whale Research released a report stating that they delivered a frozen carcass of a harbor porpoise to the NOAA Fisheries National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle. The porpoise was found subsequent to a nearby Navy sonar incident. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network in Seattle released their own report in February 2004 following the Navy's mid-range sonar exercises. They reported that between May 2 and June 2 of 2003, they were informed of 14 stranded harbor porpoise in Washington.

The problem surfaced in a big way in July of 2004 when 200 melon-headed whales crowded into the shallow waters of Hanalei Bay in Hawaii during Navy sonar exercises.

Mass strandings and mortalities associated with mid-frequency sonar events are known to have occurred in North Carolina, Alaska, Hawaii, the Canary Islands, Madeira, the Virgin Islands and Greece.
In Sounding the Depths II, the NRDC proposes a comprehensive strategy for reducing noise pollution, including geographic and seasonal restrictions on intense noise from military sonar, technological improvements to reduce sonic damage, better monitoring and population research, stronger enforcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, and a commitment to international solutions.

At present, there are no domestic or international laws in place to comprehensively deal with ocean noise pollution and protect marine mammals from abuse and injury.

Documentary about dolphins of the Ganges river

The shooting of the film aimed at sensitising the commoners on the depleting population of the 'Gangetic Dolphine' is underway in the Katrania Ghat wildlife sanctuary here.

The exercise forms part of, World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) resolve to prevent the declining population of the rare acquatic species from becoming a part of history.

A film crew from South Africa based Back-to-Back company started capturing the riveting 'modus vivendi' of the dolphin in the Gerua river from November 20.

The crew led by producer Herman, an expert cameraman who has under his belt as many as 400 films, were seated inside a submarine to capture the natural underwater shots through their advanced lens eyes.

Convenor of WWF, Fresh Water and Wetlands Programme Sandip Beura told UNI here today that the film will be completed in six months time and its shooting in the sanctuary famous for this rare genre of dolphins will go on for one month.

Dr Beura said a host of efforts were being taken by the WWF for conserving the depleting population of Gangetic dolphins, including making Big B Amitabh Bachchan's daughter Shweta Bachchan as the 'Dolphin Ambassador', besides this film to be aired by all prominent international channels including National Geographic and Discovery.

''The population of this jovial animal in river Bramhaputra, Ganga and their tributries has declined alarmingly to 2,000, with 28 to 36 inhabiting the waters of the Gerua river alone,'' Dr Beura maintained. ''It is high time we started caring for this acquatic delight, for preventing it from becoming part of wildlife annals.''

Military sonar increases beaching of dolphins and whales

Military sonar is one of the causes of an increased incidence of beachings by whales and dolphins, according to a United Nations report.

The theory that sonar may be interfering with the animals has long been suspected by environmental groups, and has now received official recognition from the UN Environment Program.

The Australian Defence Department denied responsibility for the beaching of 110 pilot whales in Tasmania last month, while the navy was using sonar to search for a wrecked ship.

Noise pollution was mentioned in the UN report as one of the risks to whales, dolphins and porpoises, along with fishing nets, pollution and environmental degradation.

The report cited a beaching in the Canary Islands in 2002 when "high-intensity, low-frequency sonar" was being tested and the beached animals were found to have inner-ear damage and haemorrhages.

A mass stranding in the Ionian Sea was also linked to NATO testing of submarine-searching sonar in the area.

Is swimming with dolphins a treatment for depression?

Swimming with dolphins appears to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression, according to new U.K. research.

The randomized controlled study was conducted at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences in Honduras and involved outpatients recruited from the United States and Honduras from November 2002 thru December 2003.

A total of 30 people with mild or moderate depression were involved: Half of them were assigned to swim and snorkel with bottlenose dolphins for an hour a day for two weeks. The rest also swam and snorkeled but not in the presence of dolphins.

All the study volunteers discontinued antidepressant drugs or psychotherapy at least four weeks before the start of the study and did not take any drugs during the study, the researchers said.
By the end of study, those people who swam with the dolphins had a greater average reduction in the severity of their depressive symptoms than those who did not. The findings appear in the Nov. 26 issue of the British Medical Journal.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first randomized, single blind, controlled trial of animal facilitated therapy with dolphins. The natural setting itself is also an important factor that has to be considered in the treatment of emotional disorders. This is confirmed by other studies," the authors wrote in their study findings.

"The effects exerted by the animals were significantly greater than those of just the natural setting," they added. "The echolocation system, the aesthetic value, and the emotions raised by the interaction with dolphins may explain the mammals' healing properties."

The researchers, from the division of clinical Psychiatry at the University of Leicester Medical School, noted that the study supports the theory of biophilia, which contends that human health and well-being is dependent on the human connection with the natural world.

Dream come true for Bethany

CANCER-BATTLING youngster Bethany Keenan is going on a dream holiday swimming with dolphins at Disneyworld in Florida, thanks to a charity for children with serious illnesses.
The charity Dreams Come True is paying for the five-year-old and mum Kay Blythe to travel to the United States for a fortnight at the end of April.

Ms Blythe, of Tile Hill, said Bethany, who has just completed a year in remission from neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer, could not wait to go.

The courageous youngster, a pupil at Templars Primary School, in Tile Hill, was given just a 30 per cent chance of survival when she was diagnosed in August 2003.

She underwent a four-hour operation at the Princess of Wales Children's Hospital, Birmingham, in December 2003 to remove the remainder of her tumour.

Ms Blythe, 40, said: "It's two years since we wrote to Dreams Come True saying Bethany would like to swim with dolphins and we can't believe it's now going to happen.

"Bethany has been through so much and come through it all tremendously well. She deserves this extra special holiday."

Bethany will be joined by dad Craig Keenan, 34, twin sister Mollie, and sister Aimee, 13, who attends Tile Hill Wood School and Language College, in Nutbrook Avenue, Tile Hill.
More than £40,000 has been raised since her diagnosis to pay for treatment for Bethany in America, should the treatment she has received in Britain not work.

Bethany has the same condition as Jordan Accardi, aged four, of Cannon Park, Coventry, who went to New York for treatment after Evening Telegraph readers helped raise cash.

* Dreams Come True is a UK children's charity helping terminally ill children and youngsters with cancer fulfil their dreams.

* Nueroblastoma affects the cells dealing with the development of the nervous system and fewer than 100 UK children develop it each year.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Future swim with dolphins facility follows plans

Developers of the proposed dolphinarium for Grand Cayman are very optimistic about moving forward with the project which is now pending approval from the Planning Department.

Owner of Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. Gene Thompson, who, along with Dale Crighton is behind the setting up of a swim–with–dolphin facility in West Bay, said this week, “We’re now moving forward as we submitted plans to Planning in September and we’ve worked with Planning to address various issues they have raised.

“We’re looking forward to a favourable response and we’re optimistic in moving forward,” said Mr. Thompson.

Commenting on when the facility could be up and running, Mr. Thompson said, “Depending on how everything goes we hope to be operational in the third or fourth quarter of next year. We expect next year to be the year we get up and running”.

The multi–million dollar project has already seen the developers put over a million dollars into the swim–with–dolphin–facility.

Speaking on the overall benefits of the dolphinarium to local tourism, Mr. Thompson said that it would be an additional recreational product for visitors and one that has proven very popular in places such as Florida.

Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. has a lease agreement with Cayman Turtle Farm for the site of the old holding tanks for turtles, destroyed during Hurricane Michelle in 2002. The dolphinarium, although it will be run independently, will operate as part of new tourist attraction Boatswain’s Beach.

Mr. Thompson also anticipates that the dolphin facility will benefit the local economy by hiring 40 people, with a significant number of locals to be trained for various positions.

An animal import license was issued to Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. on March 7, 2005 and was issued following over two years due diligence by the Department of Agriculture. This license for eight bottlenose dolphins is subject to certain health requirements at the time of importation and other requirements being in place prior to the importation of the animals. This includes health, transportation, water quality test, quarantine, housing and husbandry. Mr. Thompson said the Department of Agriculture had worked very hard on all these conditions and due diligence.

The dolphins are to come from Dolphin Discovery, Cancun, Mexico.

However, the Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands group headed up by Mr. Billy Adam is strongly against the keeping of captive dolphins, based on environmental and the moral issue of keeping highly intelligent marine mammals in captivity.

The group has also stated that there could be long–term economic implications from such a venture, stating that there is documented scientific evidence from the Global Coral Reef Alliance (a non–profit organisation for the protection and sustainable management of coral reefs) that raw sewage flushed out from captive dolphin facilities, along with rotting uneaten food can cause algae blooms that are damaging to coral reefs.

Sonar endangers dolphins survival

Increased naval military maneuvers and submarine sonars in the world's oceans are threatening dolphins, whales and porpoises that depend on sound to survive, a United Nations report said on Wednesday.

According to the report, the use of powerful military sonar is harming the ability of some 71 types of cetaceans -- whales, dolphins and porpoises -- to communicate, navigate and hunt.

"While we know about other threats such as over-fishing, hunting and pollution, a new and emerging threat to cetaceans is that of increased underwater sonars," Mark Simmonds of the Whale and Dolphin Society told Reuters.

"These low frequency sounds travel vast distances, hundreds if not thousands of kilometers from the source."

In October, a coalition of environmental groups sued the U.S. Navy over its use of sonar, saying the ear-splitting sounds violated environmental protection laws.

The navy said it was studying the problem but said sonar was necessary for national defense.
Animal protection groups have for years lobbied to restrict the use of sonar, saying the sound blasts disorient the sound-dependent creatures and causes bleeding from the eyes and ears.
Simmonds said in recent years, western governments have developed stealthier submarines the detection of which requires more powerful, low-frequency sonars.

The report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) says species like the Beluga whale, Blanville's beaked whale and the Goosebeak whale are seriously at risk.

Researchers found that a stranding of 12 Goosebeak whales in the Ionian Sea in the 1990s coincided with NATO tests of an acoustic submarine detection system.

Other Goosebeaks were stranded off of the Bahamas in 2000, and experts link that to military tests.

Tests on the bodies of seven whales that died near Gran Canaria in 2002 found haemorrhages and inner ear damage, which experts said was caused by high-intensity, low-frequency sonar used in the area.

"This is a hugely serious concern as these animals need sound to navigate, to find their food, to communicate and to mate," said Simmonds.

There are no laws governing noise pollution in the world's oceans, but western governments, considered largely responsible with their increased military presence in the seas, say they need more research before taking action.

Charles Galbraith, a senior wildlife advisor to the British government, told Reuters the report highlighted a potential problem. "But the issue is still in a relatively gray area in terms of scientific proof and we need to do more research before the government can review its defense systems," he said.

Seismic exploration used in the hunt for undersea oil and gas and the increased movement of large ships may also cause problems for cetaceans, the report said.

Dolphin export ban...a great step!

OCEAN Care congratulates the government of the Solomon Islands for its ban on dolphin export and urges the Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre to free the dolphins it currently keeps at Gavutu. Free ranging, highly developed and socially oriented marine mammals - such as dolphins and whales - should not be kept in captivity. They belong to the open ocean. Because of the special physiology and life history of cetaceans (air breathing mammals that live exclusively in water), ensuring the safe capture and live transport of these species is a particularly difficult and responsible undertaking.

Survivorship data indicate that many cetaceans do not adapt well to capture, live transport and a life in captivity. Morbidity or fatalities, which may occur some months following transfer from the wild (or following transfer between captive facilities), may in some cases be attributed to the stress and trauma of transfer and associated acclimation. A study by Small and DeMaster on the acclimation to captivity of two marine mammal species (bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions), revealed that the acclimation time for bottlenose dolphins transferred between captive facilities, was the same as the acclimation time when these animals were first transferred from the wild.

This study also noted: “Based on the results from the two species, a 60-day acclimation period is recognized as a distinct interval of relatively high mortality that should be treated separately from long-term survival estimates when evaluating husbandry practices of oceanaria and zoos.” Therefore, transfer between facilities, especially when coupled with long-distance travel, presents serious cause for concern. Viewing cetaceans in the wild differs fundamentally to watching them performing tricks, or swimming around featureless tanks.

Most whale-watching activities endeavour to operate without detriment to the species or individual and many offer a naturalist to provide interpretation for the customers about the species and environment they witness. They are operated within the species’ habitat, with the added reward to the viewer of seeking out the animals in their own environment. This provides opportunities for greater understanding of ecosystems conservation, in addition to learning about the specific threats faced by the species and details of their natural behaviour and life cycles.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Calf born in captivity

Six Flags Marine World has a new addition to the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin family at the popular amusement and water theme park.

A female calf named Mattie was born at the park's Marine Research Center on Oct. 4. She weighed 30 pounds and measured three feet long.

Because the first 30 days of a dolphin calf's life are critical, park staff held 24-hour observations on the 26-year-old mother Sadie and her infant. Park officials said there is a 50 percent survival rate for dolphin calves born in the wild and in marine parks.

Michelle Bridwell, the park's dolphin supervisor, said all signs indicate the calf is healthy and energetic.

Mattie is the second female calf born at the park. Last year a female dolphin named Bella was born and also lives at the Marine Research Center.

There are 15 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, eight males and seven females, at Six Flags Marine World.

The park re-opens March 4, 2006 but still holds interactive educational programs, Dolphin Discovery and Sea Lion Celebration, during the off-season.

Solomon Islands ban dolphin exports

A ban on the export of live dolphins from Solomon Islands is expected to be formalised tomorrow.
The Solomon Star newspaper reports that the Permanent Secretary of Fisheries, Tione Bugotu, has confirmed the ban will be gazetted tomorrow.

There had been reports that a pod of 40 wild dolphins was to be exported earlier this week to the Bahamas, prompting protests from the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and the New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Miss Clark wrote to Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza, seeking an assurance that its ban on live dolphin exports remains in place.

Mr Bugotu said the reports were false because the government had not changed its decision banning the trade.

He said the government has only given a processing licence to the Solomon Islands Marine and Mammal Education Centre.

This allows the Centre to have dolphins on public display, but it cannot export them.
The Centre last year had exported live dolphins to Mexico, an action that caused international outrage and condemnation.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mussel farm's fate depends on study of Hector's dolphin

Final approval for one of the largest mussel farms in New Zealand, to be built at Clifford Bay south of Blenheim, will depend on a study of Hector's dolphins there.

The Minister of Conservation has approved the application from Clifford Bay Marine Farms, but the go ahead is conditional on the outcome of a three year survey of the dolphins that live in the bay.

The survey will be funded by the developers and will look at whether the area is a breeding ground, nursery or zone of real importance for the dolphins.

Associate conservation minister Mahara Okeroa says he accepts the view of the Environment Court that there is a low risk of the farm causing harm.

Trade of live dolphins for exportation is condemned

A POD of 40 dolphins caught in the wild is set to be illegally exported from the Solomon Islands to the Bahamas, says an international animal protection group.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals says plans are in place to put the dolphins on two charter flights today. The planes would take the pods through Fiji, Tahiti and Mexico and on to the Bahamas.

The export plan has prompted New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to write to Solomons Prime Minister Allan Kemakeza seeking an assurance that the county's ban on live dolphin exports remains in place.

Last week, Mr Kemakeza assured parliament the ban was still in place.

The Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre captured the dolphins in 2002.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals said the centre had been attempting to sell them overseas despite the Solomons Government ban imposed in January.

In July 2004, the Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre exported 28 bottlenose dolphins to an aquatic park in Mexico, sparking an international outrage.

After that shipment, Mexico banned further imports and the Australian and New Zealand governments urged the Solomons Government to ban all live dolphin exports.

The Solomons ban also followed concerns expressed by local tuna fishing interests that their industry could be jeopardised through boycotts of Solomons fish products in protest at dolphin exports.

World Society for the Protection of Animals campaign manager Heather Potter said in Sydney she was certain the exports were going ahead despite the Solomons Government's assurances about its ban. The society understood from reliable sources that a charter flight was due in the Solomons capital Honiara late yesterday and would fly out to Nadi in Fiji today, she said.

The Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre was showing blatant disregard for the Solomons Government's ban, international treaties and public opinion, Ms Potter said.

"It's time this group faced up to reality and recognised that dolphins belong in the wild, not in glorified fish tanks where they will be exploited for entertainment," she said.

The society was calling on Fiji, Tahiti and Mexico to refuse transfer permits for the dolphins and for the Bahamas to refuse to import dolphins from the Solomons.

Solomon Islands Marine Mammal Education Centre operator, Canadian Christopher Porter, was in the Dominican Republic and could not be contacted for comment.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Does dancing on its tail is more than just playtime for dolphins?

After years of studying dolphins at play, Kuczaj and his colleagues have reached some surprising conclusions: dolphin games show remarkable cooperation and creativity. Dolphins seem to deliberately make their games difficult, possibly in order to learn from them. And such pastimes may play a key role in the development of culture and in evolution—both among dolphins and other species, including humans.

Games “may help young animals learn their place in the social dynamics of the group,” wrote Kuczaj, a psychologist with the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss., and colleagues in a paper to appear in the International Journal of Comparative Psychology. “The innovations produced during the interactions of young animals may be important sources for the evolution of animal traditions, as well as the adaptations that may lead to more successful individuals and species,” they added.

The researchers based their findings on five years of research with a group of 16 captive bottlenose dolphins, and additional studies on wild dolphins. Evolutionary theory holds that species gradually change because the rare mutations that are helpful for an animal spread through the population, eventually creating new species. Natural selection, a process in which only the organisms well-suited for their environment survive, spreads these genes by ensuring that those who have them live longer and reproduce more.

Many researchers have suggested that in line with this theory, animals inherited a predisposition to play because “it helps animals gain knowledge of the properties of objects, perfect motor skills, and recognize and manipulate characteristics of [their] environment,” Kuczaj’s group wrote. One sign of the importance of play, they added, is that many animals play at the risk of loss of life and limb, including dolphins.

The scientists also cited research suggesting young dolphins deliberately make their games as hard as possible, possibly to enhance the learning experience. The captive dolphins “produced 317 distinct forms of play behavior during the five years that they were observed,” they wrote. One calf became adept at “blowing bubbles while swimming upside-down near the bottom of the pool and then chasing and biting each bubble before it reached the surface,” the researchers continued. “She then began to release bubbles while swimming closer and closer to the surface, eventually being so close that she could not catch a single bubble.”

“During all of this, the number of bubbles released was varied, the end result being that the dolphin learned to produce different numbers of bubbles from different depths, the apparent goal being to catch the last bubble right before it reached the surface of the water.” “She also modified her swimming style while releasing bubbles, one variation involving a fast spin-swim. This made it more difficult for her to catch all of the bubbles she released, but she persisted in this behavior until she was able to almost all of the bubbles she released.

Curiously, the dolphin never released three or fewer bubbles, a number which she was able to catch and bite following the spin-swim release.” The dolphin may have been keeping her play interesting by blowing more bubbles than she could easily catch and bite, the researchers wrote. “These observations are consistent with the notion that play facilitates the development and maintenance of flexible problem solving skills. If this is true, play may have evolved to enhance the ability to adapt to novel situations.”

Although dolphins of all ages participated in games, most of the newly invented ones came from the youngsters themselves, the group wrote, providing evidence for a contribution of games to dolphin “culture.” The notion that non-human animals can have culture gained scientific respectability only in this decade. This profound shift in attitudes came as a result of findings that chimpanzees and other primates develop local traditions, such as specific tool use strategies, and pass them on to their offspring.

Such “traditions” have been found among dolphins, too. Now, Kuczaj maintains, it seems that what is usually considered mere child’s play might have to be included as an integral part of, even an engine of, that culture. “The ability to invent novel play behaviors and the ability to learn from the behaviors of others may be related to the creation and maintenance of animal traditions,” the researchers wrote, “and ultimately to the survival of species.”

New dolphin calf at Chicago zoo

Late in the afternoon on Nov. 3, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin Tapeko, 23, gave birth at the zoo to a healthy 30- to 35-pound, 3-foot-long female calf, a news release from the zoo said Friday.
"We are cautiously optimistic," zoo marine mammal curator Melinda Pruett-Jones said in the release.

While dolphin births are not considered successful until the calf is at least a year old, Pruett-Jones said the newborn has exhibited several behaviors considered positive, including regularly nursing following the birth.

For about two weeks, zoo staff will observe the newborn calf and mother around the clock, according to the release.

As the first year is critical to a newborn dolphin, the zoo staff will likely wait a month or two before naming the calf, zoo spokeswoman Sondra Katzen said.

The newborn is Tapeko's third child and the first for the father, Hastings, according to Katzen.
In addition to the newborn, Tapeko's other family members include daughters Kaylee, 12, and Noelani, 2, and grandson, Micco, 4, all at Brookfield Zoo, she said.

Tapeko and her newborn will be available for public viewing at the zoo's Seven Seas underwater gallery beginning Saturday, the release stated.

Adopt a dolphin or another type of marine mammal

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation is offering a free Eighth Annual Run for the Ridley T-shirt to the first 20 people who adopt one of the above sea creatures or the first 20 who become members of the Foundation.

Adoption options are available for $30 and $40. Membership is $35 for a single membership and $50 for a family. For information call, 369-9840 or

Friday, November 11, 2005

Death overcomes rescued dolphin

Some sad news about that dolphin named Nimitz that was found stranded near Bob Hall Pier a couple of weeks ago. Experts at the Animal Rehabilitation Keep in Port Aransas said Nimitz passed away.

Due to his unhealthy condition, they were ordered by the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network to euthanize the dolphin on Sunday. The 30-year-old dolphin was suffering from pneumonia. Caretakers said he lost a lot of weight, wasn't swimming on his own, and he didn't show signs of improvement.

Marineland reopens with interactive dolphins program

With a rush of water, Dazzle soars gracefully 10 feet through the air and returns to the pool with a mighty splash.

The 17-year-old Atlantic Bottlenose is one of 11 dolphins at Marineland of Florida undergoing training for an interactive program that officials say will give visitors a more hands-on experience than the spectator shows that once made the 67-year-old attraction famous.

In another pool, trainer Mackenzie Mueller works with dolphins Pebbles and Roxy by giving them signals and grabbing their flippers as they push themselves out of the water with their tails.
"Getting to work with these guys is amazing," Mueller said. "They have their own personalities."
After being closed for more than a year, the "World's First Oceanarium" reopened recently with interactive programs designed to let visitors swim and play with dolphins in a new 1.3-million-gallon complex of pools and lagoons. Officials say the experience is more intimate than anything the park has presented in the past.

"What we offer is the ability to get close to animals that a lot of people are in love with," said Chad Stouffer, assistant supervisor of marine mammals.

Marineland closed in 2004 after hurricanes damaged the attraction and it will never be the same again.

The archaic sky-blue arches rising above the old tank are no longer the park's centerpiece. Officials have no plans to reopen that portion of Marineland, and Stouffer said it could be torn down.

The park still features aquariums with exotic fish and sea turtles, but the sea lions and penguins are gone, loaned to other marine facilities. They could be brought back, but Stouffer said the dolphin encounters are the park's new focus.

Instead of watching dolphins jump through hoops or play with toys, visitors can get a
close-up encounter in the slick new Dolphin Conservation Center.

"Old Marineland was a show-based facility," Stouffer said. "The direction we are moving into now is an interactive-based facility."

Prices range from $120 for a 30-minute swim with the animals to $40 to play with them from the edge of the pool. General admission is $5 for adults and $2.50 for children.

For now, the attraction is open only on weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A seven-day-a-week schedule is planned when renovations, now in final stages, are complete.

Future plans include a resort hotel with an aquarium in the lobby. Park officials also plan to host research programs and educate visitors about marine life and protecting the environment.
"In every program, we're going to have some kind of conservation message," Stouffer said.
Officials hope the new exhibit can breathe new life into the aging attraction. Not too long ago, its future was far from certain.

Marineland opened in 1938 with a hotel and a campground that have since closed. It was one of Florida's first and busiest tourist attractions, but attendance dropped in the 1970s as visitors turned to Walt Disney World, Sea World and other theme parks.

The park went through two bankruptcy filings and two ownership changes between 1997 and 2001.
Atlanta businessman Jim Jacoby bought the park in 2001 and began an ambitious remodeling plan.

Vanessa Welter, spokeswoman for Visit Florida, the state's tourism bureau, said historic attractions that are off the beaten path such as Cypress Gardens are enjoying a renewed interest. There's no reason Marineland cannot follow suit and build a niche in Florida's dynamic tourism market, she said.

"When people come to Florida, the whole thing is a vacation," Welter said.

Scientists concerned about dolphins deaths

Scientists concerned by bottlenose dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico have reportedly asked for the marine mammal equivalent of a disaster declaration.

A 12-member working group of scientists voted Monday to recommend the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration add the dolphin deaths to an "unusual mortality event" the group declared in March for manatees, the Naples (Fla.) Daily News reported Tuesday.

The scientists suspect "red tide" is responsible for the deaths and NOAA is expected to initiate a study of the microscopic algae bloom's effects on dolphins, manatees, sea turtles and even seabirds.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dead dolphin found in Nepal

A dolphin has been found dead at the bank of Narayani River in central Nepal, a press release from the Royal Chitwan National Park said on Monday.

The dolphin was found Thursday near the river and was released into the river with the joint efforts of the park staff and security forces on Friday.

The rare aquatic mammal in Nepal was later found dead at Triveni village of Nawalparasi district, some 100 km west of Kathmandu on Sunday, said the park.

The female dolphin, weighed about 65-70 kg, might have died after being trapped at the barrage, the park added.

A dolphin, which was found in Gandak Canal in central Nepal last year, died in the course of rescue.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Hector's dolphin needs protection from nets

Set net ban needed to protect Hector’s Dolphin

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society has repeated its calls for a national ban on set netting after the killing of four Hector’s dolphins in set nets at Neil’s Beach in South Westland’s Jackson Bay.

“This high level of human induced mortality cannot be sustained by a slow breeding and threatened species such as Hector’s dolphin. It puts the whole South Westland and West Coast Hector’s dolphin populations at risk,” Forest and Bird regional field officer Eugenie Sage said.

“New Zealand is well behind the rest of the world in continuing to permit such an indiscriminate fishing method with its deadly bycatch of dolphins, penguins, shags and other marine life.
“The use of monofilament set nets or gill nets in shallow waters is banned in many overseas countries including coastal states of the United States (California, Texas, and Florida), in England, Wales, Scotland, Italy and Greece. In Australia, the use of recreational set nets is banned, except in Tasmania,” she aid.

“In the absence of a national set net ban Fisheries Minister, Jim Anderton, should use his powers under the Fisheries Act 1996 to make Jackson Bay set net free, because of its importance as a nursery area for Hector’s dolphin mothers and calves,” she said.

“The survival of mature reproductive females is the most important factor influencing the population growth of Hector’s dolphin. Jackson Bay is one of only two known areas in South Westland regularly used by dolphin females and their calves”.

“The South Westland Hector’s dolphin population is at risk of decline from human induced mortality because of its small size, the species’ restricted home range, and slow reproductive rate. Females have a maximum of five to six calves in their lifetime,” she said.

Of the estimated 5,400 Hector’s dolphin on the South Island’s West Coast, only 170 are estimated to occur in South Westland between Makawhio Point and Milford Sound.

Background notes

Sections 11 (sustainability measures) and sections 15 and 16 (fishing related mortality) of the Fisheries Act 1996 give the Minister of Fisheries the power to ban set nets as a emergency or more permanent measure.

Researchers have calculated that the West Coast population of Hector’s dolphin as a whole could sustain fewer than 8 deaths per year due to additional human impacts, while the small South Westland local population could sustain less than 1 death every 5 years.

Research by Stephen Bräger between 1995 and 1998 indicates that Jackson Bay is a locally important area for Hector’s dolphins. Bräger’s survey data showed that up to 90 Hector’s dolphins use Jackson Bay at any one time and that pods can contain as many as 40 individuals.

Although large group sizes (10-50 animals) are not uncommon on the West Coast, their frequent occurrence in Jackson Bay suggests that it is a habitat favoured by Hector’s dolphins.

In many other cetacean species, coastal nursery areas are often sheltered sites, with low energy demands for the mother and calf. This may be why Jackson Bay is a favoured nursery area for Hector’s dolphins.

Dolphins have a small home range (c31 km of coastline on average from research at Banks Peninsula). A declining local population in South Westland is unlikely to be supplemented by individuals from adjacent local populations.

Jackson Bay is at the southern limit of the Hector’s dolphin distribution on the West Coast. Hector’s dolphins are rarely seen south of Jackson Head and are very uncommon in the deep waters of Fiordland. Research has shown that the South Westland population of Hector’s dolphin is distinctive and genetically different from Hector’s dolphin in Buller.

Ganges dolphin dies of shock!?

A Gangetic dolphin, which had got trapped in a canal in Burdwan, died after it was released in the Bhagirathi. The incident occurred even as the state is observing Wildlife Week.

Kamal Haldar, the upapradhan of the gram panchayat of Samudragarh, who was present when the 30-foot dolphin was released on Monday, said some fishermen yesterday found the endangered mammal lying dead on the shallow river bed.

Kalna sub-divisional officer Srikumar Chakraborty said: “After the dolphin was released in the Bhagirathi, it died. I have asked the block development officer to conduct an inquiry.” Conservator of forests Vinod Yadav said in Calcutta the “dolphin may have died from shock”.

Greenpeace loses second battle...but not the war on dolphin case!

The Court of Appeal has rejected the second attempt by Greenpeace to challenge Defra’s dolphin bycatch measures in the South West. This week’s appeal dismissal followed an earlier judgement against Greenpeace’s judicial review claim, in October. Defra introduced a measure in December 2004 prohibiting the use of pair trawlers to catch bass within twelve miles off the SW coast. The UK operates two pairs of vessels in region, and France has around twenty pairs.

The limited ban was designed to remove trawlers from a bycatching hotspot. However, Greenpeace opposed Defra’s measures, claiming that the decision would jeopardise more dolphins by moving trawlers into more heavily populated waters. In addition, the environmental group has called for a complete ban to be imposed on the practice of pair trawling.

"I am extremely pleased that the Courts have found in our favour on this issue. The Courts have once more confirmed that my department acted lawfully and with the genuine intention of reducing dolphin bycatch,” said Marine and Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw yesterday, in response to the judgement. "We have done more than any other country to tackle the dolphin bycatch problem in the South West and I remain committed to encouraging effective European Community action to tackle the problem of dolphin bycatch," added Mr. Bradshaw.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Business receives the award of the best sightings of dolphins and whales

BICREF's Best Dolphin and Whale Sighting Report Award for the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2005 was presented last Saturday to the Skipper John Dietz who led the crew of the boat Paul Gerard. This year's particular calm seas has indeed allowed the participants of this Central Mediterranean Sailing Race to come up with numerous cetacean and turtle sightings which have been reported using BICREF's forms, information packs and cameras sponsored by fotovision imaging international.

The data from all the sailing boats will complement the scientific work of the conservation biologist, Adriana Vella who started her local cetacean research project in 1996. The Biological Conservation Research Foundation (BICREF) strongly believes that accurate knowledge of biodiversity, including creatures that are vulnerable and difficult to study, can pave the way to sound planning, management, monitoring and education. BICREF therefore encourages all sea-users to be as collaborative as the Royal Malta Yacht Club, by forwarding details of cetaceans and other creatures observed at sea.

Greenpeace loses another battle

A SECOND attempt by environmental group Greenpeace to challenge Defra’s measures to reduce dolphin bycatch in the South West of England was rejected by the Court of Appeal yesterday (Oct 31)Greenpeace appealed against the earlier dismissal of its judicial review claim against the prohibition introduced by Defra on pair trawling for bass within 12 miles of the South Westcoast.Marine and Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw, said:“I am extremely pleased that the Courts have found in our favour on this issue. The Courts have once more confirmed that my department acted lawfully and with the genuine intention of reducing dolphin bycatch.

This message was clear in the original judgmentwhich rejected Greenpeace’s judicial review claim, so I am surprised that Greenpeace wasted more time and their members’ money taking this to the Court Of Appeal.“We have done more than any other country to tackle the dolphin bycatch problem in the South West and I remain committed to encouraging effective European Community action to tackle the problem of dolphin bycatch.”Greenpeace appealed against judgment handed down on 10 October 2005 dismissing its judicial review claim against Defra.

This claim related to the introduction, by Defra in December 2004, of a prohibition within 12 miles of the SW coast on the use of pair trawls to catch bass. This was a fishery which had been observed through UK research to have a bycatch of common dolphins. The pair trawl fishery for bass takes place in the Winter and Spring. The UK has two pairs of vessels in the fishery; France around 20 pairs.Defra say that since the 12 mile closure was introduced, bycatch in the pair trawl fishery reduced from 429 deaths in 2003/04 to around 140 in the latest season, 2004/05.

Does dolphin therapy work?

"The high-range sounds stimulate the nerves in the brain and the child's audible senses," she said.
How do the dolphins do their stuff?

Research by the US-based AquaThought Foundation suggests that biochemical and electrical changes occur in the human brain as a result of "sonophoresis" - where microscopic "holes" created by the ultrasonic energy enhance the movement of hormones through cell membranes. Theories variously claim that these changes bring about brainwave modifications; pain relief due to an increased release of hormones; and physical changes in nervous system tissue.
Does it work?

"The high-frequency waves made by dolphins may well 'wobble' our brain matter, but there is no way of knowing what the after-effects of this - if there are any - might be," says Dr George Lewith, head of the Complementary Medicine Research Unit at Southampton University. "Swimming with dolphins makes people feel wonderfully relaxed and happy, which probably brings with it the physiological improvements associated with feeling happier. But the rest of it is impossible to prove."

So it won't make baby's brain bigger?

Philip Steer, professor of obstetrics at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and Imperial College, London, thinks it is highly unlikely. "As far as we know, brain growth in a foetus is determined by nutrition and oxygen supply, which depends on the baby's ability to use the placenta. Proving that a dolphin sound helps a baby's brain growth is like trying to prove the existence of God - it is not a question of science, but of belief."

So is it time to throw away the new-age CDs?

No. According to Mervi Jokinen, the practice adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, dolphin sounds are among the most popular birthing tapes.

And what about dolphins 'curing' autism?

Children with cerebral palsy and autism have been swimming with dolphins for decades at therapy centres in Turkey, Israel, Japan and North and South America. Anecdotal evidence of children speaking their first words in response to the "dolphins as reward" therapy is not supported by any significant studies. However, Richard Mills, the director of research at the National Autistic Society, says families report good results.

"This doesn't seem to be harmful," he says, "but it is expensive and we would not recommend that people undertake it at the expense of traditional therapies."

Citizens save beached dolphin

A group of citizens come to the rescue of a stranded dolphin that beached itself on Padre Island near Bob Hall Pier. The dolphin now named Sam doesn't appear to be in good health.
"Came out to watch the sunrise this morning. Lady came over there was a beached dolphin," said Cory Carlson. It was that surprise uniting a group of strangers.

They held on to Sam like it was their own child. "She or he was tired. It didn't seem to fight to much, and we were keeping it afloat. It just laid in your arms," said Tripp Howse. At times they tried to nudge the dolphin back into the water, but Sam never managed to get very far.

"There's obviously something wrong. They don't wash up on the beaches unless there's something wrong. We don't know what it is at this time. He looks a little bit thin," said Andi Wickham.

The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network decided to take the dolphin in for an examination, but it was no easy task. Volunteers first pushed the eight and a half foot dolphin closer to shore. The next big challenge was lifting Sam who weighs several hundred pounds.It took eight people's strength to load the dolphin. Once on dry land, experts found several mysterious abrasions on the dolphin's beak and flipper.

The people at the Animal Rehabilitation Keep in Port Aransas will try to rehabilitate the dolphin. For those who got to meet Sam they will not forget the experience.

"This was one was fortunate. Hopefully he's pretty strong and will make it," said Gary Parker. Everyone on shore wishes Sam the best. The next step, is to figure out what's wrong with Sam and then decide what's the best course of treatment for him.

Dead dolphin found by tourists

When two tourists and a Lee County resident dragged a dead dolphin ashore on Fort Myers Beach on Friday morning, they unwittingly broke the law.Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, touching a dolphin in the wild, even a dead one, is a federal offense, unless the person doing the touching has the proper permits or is a member of a marine mammal stranding network."I had no idea," said medical technician Mindi Kincade, 37, of Indianapolis.

"We were just trying to help."

The story began at about 10:30 a.m. when Kincade and Cindy Helfer, also 37 and from Indianapolis, saw a dead juvenile dolphin floating in the Gulf of Mexico about 100 feet from the beach.Three other dolphins swam around the carcass, with at least one apparently pushing it.
"For a mother to remain with a dead calf for a period of time, days, sometimes longer, is not unusual," said Randy Wells, director of Mote Marine Laboratory's Center for Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Research.

"They will continue to push the carcass around, holding it to the surface. They're engaged in epimeletic behavior — supportive behavior — supporting live animals or carcasses."Not knowing what to do, Kincade and Helfer watched the dolphins until Priscilla Longua, a volunteer for the Ostego Bay Marine Science Center on San Carlos Island, showed up and waded toward the carcass.Ostego Bay had received numerous calls about the dolphins and had tried to contact authorities before Longua went to the beach.

"I assumed she had authority," Helfer said. "We asked if she needed help, and she said, 'Yes.' We thought we were doing the right thing."So Helfer and Kincade followed Longua into the water.
"I said, 'What do you want me to do?' and she said, 'Grab it if you can,'" Kincade said. "She kept talking to the dolphins, saying, 'Love and compassion, love and compassion.'"I grabbed hold of the tail fin, which didn't make the other three dolphins very happy. One dolphin knocked me away from it one time, but I got hold of it again."State scientists learned about the carcass and attending dolphins Thursday but chose to wait until the dead animal was on the beach before recovering it, said Denise Boyd, marine research associate the Florida Marine and Wildlife Research Institute Southwest Field Station in Port Charlotte.

"It's dangerous for us to interfere with the natural process," Boyd said. "We encourage people not to try to interfere with the natural process."We need to let it play out. I know it's hard for people to watch and understand."Within minutes, the women got the carcass to shore, and Longua left the beach.

None of the women belong to a marine mammal stranding network, so technically, they violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act.But authorities won't be seeking them out.

"I'm sure they were just trying to help, in the best interest of the animals," said Blair Mase, NOAA-Fisheries Southeast stranding coordinator."It's a gray area. You could consider what they did a 'take,' a violation. But educating these people is the way to go."FWRI scientists recovered the carcass Friday afternoon and took it the Southwest Field Station, where it was put in a freezer until a necropsy, or post-mortem examination, could be performed.

Although she felt bad about breaking the law, Kincade was excited about the adventure."It was very cool," she said. "I'll remember this forever."

Dolphin trade must be stopped!

The man who captured and trained dolphins for the American hit TV series "Flipper" told CDNN the dolphin slave trade must be stopped.

Ric O'Barry says that capturing dolphins for tourist amusement parks must be banned.
O'Barry, Cyber Diver Society (CDS) and other environmental groups have been fighting to ban the world-wide dolphin slave trade, which involves organized crime gangs, cruise ship companies and well-financed PADI dive operators including Hugh Parkey in Belize and Anthony's Key Resort in Honduras.

"The diving industry is no stranger to the multi-million dollar business of marine wildlife harassment," said CDNN editor Lamar Bennington. "But most divers support full protection of marine wildlife and are voting with their credit cards by avoiding Hugh Parkey, Anthony's Key Resort and others who are colluding with organized crime bosses and corrupt politicians that drive the dolphin slave trade."

While PADI, Las Vegas casinos and dolphin slave traders such as Chris Porter continue to greenwash commercial exploitation of marine wildlife as "education" and "conservation", dolphins captured for tourism amusement parks are being killed.

The Mexican Wildlife Department told CDNN that six of the dolphins Porter captured and sold for $100,000 each to an amusement park in Cancun have already died.

O'Barry said that one of the dolphins trained to perform in the Flipper series died in his arms from stress and depression.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"