Saturday, June 24, 2006

Nematodes kill dophins!

THE conservation of dolphins is under threat with alarming numbers of the young dying in South Australian waters, it was claimed yesterday.The impact of a record pilchard catch last year also should be investigated for any link to the deaths.

SA Museum Curator of Mammals, Dr Catherine Kemper, said post-mortem examinations on the mammals have found 90 per cent have been infected with nematodes.

Most of the infected dolphins were from Gulf St Vincent, Investigator Strait and southern Spencer Gulf. "What we know is that all of a sudden a year and a half ago the number of young dead common dolphins with lung nematodes spiked up," Dr Kemper said.

"What usually happens with parasites like that is that animals are probably stressed in some other way like some environmental stress.

"There may be there's some oceanographic changes going on but I suspect that it may have more to do with the food chain. Last year the pilchard industry took a record number, 50,000 tonnes, of pilchards in this State and they didn't really know what affect that would have on the environment."

Spinner dolphins of the Arabian sea!

Captain Salim's sailing boat may have been named the Sperm Whale, but what he really knew about was dolphins. We were on a family holiday in Oman and the country's rugged coastline, studded with wrecks and reefs, is a haven for millions of fish, not to mention the Arabian Sea's most outrageous extrovert - the Spinner dolphin.

We'd spent days dragging our sweating kids round dusty towns and dustier forts - the dolphin trip dangling, carrot like, at the end of the week. After a few miles of zigzagging slowly across the turquoise waves, Captain Salim called us to the rail. There, like a silvery shadow, we saw a pointy streak. 'Is it a shark?' screamed our four-year-old. She'd already been nipped by a donkey, and the holiday was clearly going from bad to worse.

But then, to our right, a group of glistening show-offs jumped into the air, followed by dozens more. Soon there were close to 100 dolphins somersaulting across the warm waves. Their celebrations looking as if they'd all scored a World Cup winner. As we headed back to port, the captain smiled calmly at our youngest: 'She was right, you know, she did see a shark...'

Dolphin husband of millionaire made her a widow

Cindy the dolphin, who grabbed headlines after British millionaire Sharon Tendler said 'I Do' to him last year, died on Sunday following illness and like all creatures of the deep was given a burial at sea. "Cindy swam slowly and he had problems eating. Sometimes he didn't eat at all. He vomited and did not look good," Maya Zilber, manager at the Eilat reef's training center told 'Ynetnews'. The dolphin's body was discovered this morning by reef workers floating in its favourite place, the entrance of the diving and swimming instructors, Zilber said.

Reef workers put Cindy's body in a boat and sailed into the sea where they parted from it. The love affair had captured the world's amused attention last December because of its sheer novelty. At a public ceremony, Tendler wore a white dress and placed flowers on her head to tie the knot with Cindy, who escorted by his fellow best-men dolphins swam over to his bride.

The Jewish millionaire hugged him, whispered sweet nothings in his ear and kissed him in front of a cheering crowd. Tendler, a British rock concert producer, met the Dolphin 15 years ago and developed a liking resulting in two to three annual visits every year to spend some time with her underwater love. "The peace and tranquility underwater, and his love, would calm me down," the excited bride had said after the wedding ceremony.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Rare dolphin doing well in Indus River

The highly endangered Indus river dolphin has dramatically increased in numbers in a small section of the Indus in Pakistan but the animals remain very rare and in grave danger, a scientist said on Wednesday.

The unique, blind dolphin is one of the world's four freshwater dolphin species, and one of its rarest mammals.

While the animals once thrived from the lower Indus up to the foothills of the Himalayas, its range has shrunk to just 20 percent of that, British dolphin expert Gill Braulik told a news conference.
Barrages built across the Indus since the 1930s to collect and divert water for agriculture have reduced the dolphin population to small, isolated pockets.

According to a survey carried out in March this year, the number of the dolphins in Pakistan has risen to 1,331 from about 1,100 in 2001, most of them concentrated in one small section of the river.

Most of the dolphins recorded in the survey, about 1,200 of them, were confined to a 200-km (125-mile) stretch of the river between barrages in the north of Sindh province.

The dolphin population in that stretch had increased almost 65 percent since the 2001 survey, said Braulik, a scientist with the U.N.- and government-backed Pakistan Wetlands Programme.

"There was a dramatic increase in abundance between Guddu and Sukkur," Braulik said, referring to the stretch of river. This was extremely unexpected and is very encouraging news for the species," she said.

The number of dolphins in four other stretches of the river covered in the survey ranged from just one to 82, she said.

Braulik said it was unclear why numbers had increased so dramatically in the river between Guddu and Sukkur but a ban on hunting might have played a part.

The animals might be slipping through barrages further up stream when they are opened for a day or two each year, and massing in that stretch of the river, she said.

That part of the river was also the deepest found in the survey and the animals are known to like deep water, she said.

But the concentration of the animals in that one small section of the river made the species extremely vulnerable.

With millions of people and extensive industry upstream of that section of the river, the animals would be in grave danger in the event of an industrial spill.

"It remains one of the most endangered dolphins in the world despite the encouraging results of this survey," she said.

Feeding on crustaceans and fish in the turbid waters of the Indus, the animal has only tiny remnant eyes and is functionally blind. It relies on sonar to find its food in the murky depths.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Sad fate for baby dolphin

A shocking find turned a regular fishing trip into a horrible experience for local fisherman Andrew Hallett and nephew Phillip.

The pair discovered a small dead dolphin floating on the water's surface near the OneSteel rock wall on Saturday afternoon at 2pm.

Environment and heritage conservation investigator Nick Bailey arrived in Whyalla on Tuesday to take the now frozen dolphin back to Port Augusta and eventually the Maritime Museum in Adelaide following the autopsy.

Mr Bailey confirmed that the dolphin was about a week old, had been dead about two days, and had died of unnatural causes.

"Any unnatural marine mammal death is of concern," Mr Bailey said.

Mr Hallett believed that it is likely the dead dolphin drifted in from south of the discovery area.
A dolphin lover all his life, Mr Hallett and his family were devastated by the find.

"It nearly bought tears to my eyes," Mr Hallett said.

"It felt like someone losing their own little one, it just puts a big lump in your throat."

Mr Hallett said that the dolphin effected everybody around him that knew about it.

"My two oldest kids, they're two and five both cried, they were quite upset," Mr Hallett said.
The find happened while the pair were ready to do their regular round of fishing.

After spotting something floating on the surface nearby, Phillip alerted Andrew and as they neared it, Andrew's worst fears were confirmed.

Andrew immediately contacted his wife who corresponded between Andrew and the Parks and Wildlife department, where he took instructions on what to do with the dolphin and how to retrieve it.

He then brought the dolphin straight back to shore, where it was wrapped in about 10 garbage bags, and frozen in one of Andrew's freezers until environment and heritage retrieved it.

Mr Hallett described the experience as one of the lowest feelings he has ever had, especially after witnessing the birth of a dolphin in the Whyalla marina in December.

"It was one of the best things I have ever seen," Mr Hallett said.

"But after seeing that and then finding the dead one, it takes a lot of that feeling away."

Still travelling out for his regular spot of fishing, Mr Hallett wants to make the public aware of cruelty to dolphins and to watch out for any suspicious activity, which has affected him deeply.

"I've seen people actually belting them with poles to get away from their boat," Mr Hallett said.
"Every time I go out, I'm always watching, I'm expecting to find things."

Autopsy results are expected to be done within a month.

Dolphins have unique sleeping technique

What’s it like to sleep in the ocean? Late afternoon one Florida-perfect day, three big dolphins roamed a small shallow area. Like people, dolphins have many moods. This trio swam leisurely.They slowly sank from view. They stayed underwater a long time. They surfaced with the same unhurried rhythm. They were sleepy.We recognized Fish Lips and Ouch immediately by their dorsal fins. Ouch is missing a huge round chunk of skin and a strip of pigment.

Ouch and Fish Lips are always together. Between their companionship, large size and many scars, we think they’re bulls. Today they swam with a smaller unmarked dolphin. Perhaps it was young. Like our own children, young dolphins have few scars compared to adults. The relaxed trio swam in unison. They surfaced and sank as one in the hypnotic rhythm of a Lava Lamp.

If we could’ve seen them underwater, they’d look drowsy. We spent many minutes watching them drift far from the ‘road’ between the red and green channel markers that most boats use. This, we thought, is a good place to rest.After a while, we drifted together into the road. It was time to continue our survey. In the no-wake zone, we didn’t go much faster than the dolphins.

But we gently motored ahead and eventually pulled away.We don’t often see resting dolphins. Part of the reason is that, as far as we know, dolphin sleep is unique. Dolphins nap throughout the 24-hour day. Most animals either sleep all night or all day. And their naps are bizarre. Half the brain sleeps. The other half remains awake. You and I can go to sleep because we breathe without thinking. Dolphins have to think to breathe, which makes sense.

You wouldn’t want an automatic breathing system if you live in the water but breathe air. We reached the deep John’s Pass that opens to the Gulf of Mexico. There are always lots of boats here. As we putzed among them, I wondered if the trio would join us. After several minutes, they entered the pass. Unhurried, they too threaded their way through the boats.

Funny place to sleep, I thought. Wouldn’t they stay out of boat traffic? We approached them slowly. Fish Lips gave commentary, lazily rearing over the surface to chuff several times. Chuffs are loud exhalations that sound like coughs. No one is quite sure what they mean because they occur in various circumstances. When a dolphin chuffs near us, we drop back in case it means they’re annoyed. Instead, they swam to us, as happens often (which makes the behavior mysterious). Together again, we languidly entered a narrow pass between two islands.

It was sunset. The world was colored in breathtaking pastels. Another natural story unfolded. Thousands of birds were assembling to roost on little sand islands for the night. Crows, intelligent tool-using birds, flew in from all points. Amassed, they swung into formation, swirled around and landed. They swooped back into the air, circling and landing again and again.

Each time, they stayed on the sand longer. Gulls grouped by the hundreds, and intimidated by the crows, cracked the night with raucous cries. Terns sped past in small tense groups. Transfixed, we stopped to watch. It was like being in a National Geographic TV special.

Ouch and friends slowly pulled away. Grateful for dreamy quietude after busy weeks of work, we watched for a mesmerizing hour. Finally time to go, we headed in the direction the trio had gone. Egotistically, I wondered if they’d hung around. About 200 yards away, there was the tired trio of very tired dolphins.

Vancouver aquarium's dolphin gives birth to stillborn calf

It's a sad day at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Hana the dolphin was in labour for more than 10 hours and gave birth to a stillborn calf.

She is an 11-year-old Pacific white-sided dolphin who came from Japan last year after being caught in a fishing net. When she came to the Vancouver aquarium she was already pregnant, but staff did not know about her pregnancy until a few months after she arrived.

Veteranarian David Huff says very few dolphins give birth in captivity so there is a lack of research in the area.

The Vancouver Aquarium says the fortunate thing about the birth is that Hana is alive and well; if she had to have the calf on her own in the wild she would have probably died.

Woman stole raised funds to send ill boy swimming with dolphins

Kathryn James, 39, of Bonymaen, Swansea, admitted she did not give any money to the family of Connor Jones, 7, but disputed the amount stolen.

Connor's difficult birth meant he has curvature of the spine, epilepsy and asthma, Swansea Crown Court heard.

James was given a six-month sentence for the theft, suspended for two years.
Judge Michael Burr set the amount stolen at "about" £2,000.

James will learn whether she has to repay the stolen money at a hearing on 7 July.
No bank account

The mother-of-two had offered to raise money to send Connor and his mother Kelly to Florida, where he could swim with dolphins.

Frank Phillips, prosecuting, said James organised various fund-raising events but failed to keep adequate accounts.

Mr Phillips said he could not say exactly how much she stole, but at one stage James had announced the amount raised was £5,000.

Connor's family eventually discovered no bank account had ever been opened in his name and called the police, the court heard.

Chris Clee, defending, said James made the £5,000 claim to give the impression the fund was succeeding.

Donations to homeless

He told the court the true amount was considerably less and said James had incurred expenses which had been deducted from the fund.

Mr Clee said the original intention had been honest, but James's marriage had run into difficulties and she went through a divorce.

He added that James maintained some of the money was donated to a local school and other cash was handed out to homeless people.

Judge Burr said James's behaviour had done nothing to encourage the public to support similar good causes in the future.

He said such a theft would normally result in an immediate jail term, but he suspended the sentence because she was the sole carer of two young children.

The Indus River dolphin is an endangered specie!

The endangered Indus river dolphin has dramatically increased in numbers in a small section of the Indus in Pakistan but the animals remain very rare and in grave danger, a scientist said on Wednesday.A survey carried out in March this year showed their numbers in Pakistan had risen to 1,331 from about 1,100 in 2001, most of them concentrated in one small section of the river.

Here are some facts about the Indus river dolphin:

- The unique, blind dolphin is one of the world's four freshwater dolphin species, and one of its rarest mammals.

- The dolphins were once common throughout the Indus river system. Today they occur in only a fifth of their previous range, in small populations, fragmented by barrages built across the river since the 1930s.

- Most are confined to a 200-km (125-mile) stretch of the river between barrages in the north of Sindh province.

- They sometimes carry their young on their backs, above the surface of the water. Although Indus dolphins prefer deep water, they can live in water as shallow as 1 metre (3.3 feet) because of their ability to swim on their side.

- Grey-brown in colour, fully grown adults are 1.5 to 2.5 metres (4.9 to 8.2 feet) in length and weigh up to 90 kg (200 lb). Males are smaller than females.

- Maturing at about 10 years, they are estimated to have a life-span of at least 28 years.

- The dolphins are functionally blind, using tiny remnant eyes only to tell day from night. They rely on sonar to find fish, shrimp, and other prey in the murky depths.

- The World Conservation Union (IUCN) says the biggest threat to their survival has been the construction of dams and barrages that have fragmented the population and reduced the amount of available habitat.

Parasite, possibly caused dolphin's death

The South Australian Museum is concerned that an increasing number of dolphins are washing up on South Australian beaches with a particular parasite in their bodies.

A post-mortem has revealed that a baby dolphin that washed up at Sellick's Beach last Wednesday had nematodes, a type of parasitic worm, in its lungs.

The museum's curator of mammals, Catherine Kemper, says she has seen a growing number of nematode cases in the last 18 months.

"It's just a bit curious that it's all of a sudden starting in the last 18 months or so," she said.

"We've got records dating back 16 years and this is a definite increase in the numbers of animals that have these nematodes."

The museum has applied for government funding to further investigate the problem.

Parents hear their six years old son speak for the first time, thanks to dolphin therapy

A SIX-YEAR-OLD boy who lived in silence because he was born with part of his brain missing has spoken his first words, after dolphins helped him learn to talk.

Unable to talk or play or even cry, Ivan McGaw had been cut off from his family all of his life. But after Alan and Wendy McGaw took Ivan to the US for special 'dolphin therapy', they were overcome with joy to hear their son say the words "Mama" and "Daddy".

They also saw tears trickle down Ivan's face for the first time since he was a baby. Doctors diagnosed Ivan's unusual behaviour as agenesis of the corpus callosum, a rare condition where babies are born without the part that connects the left and right side of the brain.

Ivan didn't seem to show any emotion and stopped crying when he became a toddler. He functions at the level of an 18-month-old, has cataracts in both eyes, has to wear nappies and is smaller than his three-year-old brother.

Ivan communicated with just one or two simple hand gestures for "hungry" and "biscuits". He showed no interest in interacting with others, preferring to sit alone, and seemed distant and cold.
His mother, Wendy, said: "It was so frustrating for Ivan and for me - he could never tell me what he wanted. I just felt so helpless as a mother - I felt terrible that I didn't know what my own son needed."

Ivan wouldn't go near strangers or other children and clung to his mum and dad. He did not even play with his three-year-old brother, Shaun.

The family searched desperately for a solution, but nobody seemed to be able to help their little boy. But on a holiday to Majorca in 2004 staff at a water park gave Ivan a treat by letting him stroke a dolphin.

Mrs McGaw, 30, of Dunfermline, Fife, was shocked that Ivan would even reach out to the animal, but she was stunned when he began to giggle as the dolphin squeaked at him.

There seemed to be an instant connection and when Mrs McGaw spotted a dolphin therapy treatment on the internet, she knew she had to find a way to let her child try it out.

In March, the family finally flew off to Key Largo, Florida, for a three-week visit to the Island Dolphin Care centre. Each day Ivan spent an hour working one-to-one with a therapist in a classroom and another hour swimming with specially trained dolphins.

Mrs McGaw said: "On the first day in the pool, Ivan didn't want to let go of his therapist, but the dolphins seemed fascinated with him.

The dolphins are so soothing and Ivan just seemed to relax with them around. But most importantly, being with them boosts his courage - his confidence is 100 times what it was before we went to America.

"As the days went on, you could see him progressing before your eyes. By the end of the three weeks he was fighting to be let go so he could play with the dolphins."

She added: "On the day we were due to leave, we had said goodbye and we all got in the car. Ivan was making a funny noise, and I turned and looked at him and there were tears running down his face. It was the first time I have seen that since he was two years old."

When Mrs McGaw and her husband returned home, they were concerned that Ivan would forget everything he had learned. But their fears proved to be unfounded. Mrs McGaw said: "Me and Alan were in the kitchen and Ivan came in and walked straight up to Alan and said 'Daddy'. We just looked at each other, and said: 'Did we just hear that?'

"Alan was choked up, and we kept making him say it all day long just to make sure we hadn't been hearing things. Then we started encouraging him to say 'Mummy', and a few days later he looked at me and said 'Mama'. Now he wants to interact all the time - if he thinks you've forgotten he's there he'll come up and poke you on the arm."

The couple are now trying to raise £5,000 for another trip to the dolphin centre.
This article:

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"