Tuesday, August 29, 2006

One of the best dolphin watching place is in Scotland

Scotland is the top spot in the British Isles to sight whales and dolphins and is the only region to record all eight species which were seen during marine conservation charity Sea Watch Foundation’s National Whale and Dolphin Watch.

Dolphins have been sighted further north than usual, and minke whales were sighted earlier than usual off the east coast, which some whale watchers put down to global warming.

Minke whales, harbour porpoises, killer whales and five species of dolphin were all recorded, with the Moray Firth proving particularly rich. Dolphin species sighted included Risso’s, common, bottlenose, white-beaked and white-sided during the watch from August 12 to 20.

More than 20 observation sites were manned and open to the public around Scotland’s coast despite poor weather . Sea Watch scientific director Peter Evans said: “The fact that members of the public turned up at watches, despite some truly appalling weather, is testament to the interest that people have in the whales and dolphins around our coastline.”

Watchers reported dolphins in unusual stretches of water off the Lybester viewpoint, North and South Kessock and, earlier in the summer, as far north as the Minches north of Skye. The Shetland Islands saw a large group of around 100 Atlantic white-sided dolphins and four species were recorded from Orkney and northern Scotland.

“The arrival of common dolphins in northeast Scotland is unusual and may be an indication of warmer sea temperatures,” added Evans.

“In previous years they tend to have extended their range into the Irish Sea from the Continental Shelf edge, going no further than western Scotland during the summer, returning south to mainly the Southwest Approaches and Bay of Biscay for the winter. This year there have been a number of sightings in the northeast of Scotland and elsewhere in the North Sea and we will be watching to see whether they become annual visitors.”

He welcomed the wider distribution of minke whales to the west coast after a dramatic decline last year. They were spotted in the Sound of Sleat, at Rubha Hunish and around the islands of Mull, Eigg, Rum and Skye during the watch. A shortage of food supplies was thought to be to blame for their decline in 2005 and it remains to be seen if they are back to their 2004 numbers.

Peter Stevick, scientific director for the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust said: “The thing that we noticed most dramatically was that last year we had a big decline in minke whales and an increase in basking sharks. They eat the same sand-eels which the minke whales feed off. It could be a case of more food for them and less for the whales.”

Watch participant, Peter Macdonald of Friends of the Moray Firth Dolphins, described the sight of four minkes off the east coast as “real theatre”.

“The Moray Firth has been very good this year. We have seen minke whales as early as May and they normally come in late August and September. They are seen on the west coast but this year they came round to the east side much earlier. Global warming is one of the main things but it is also food, there have been more sand eels this year so they go to where the food is.”

Jean Ainsley of Sea Life Adventures, which offers dives and wildlife trips around the Firth of Lorne Special Area of Conservation, said there had been more sightings of smaller sea mammals this year. “We are seeing a lot more dolphins and we saw porpoises on every trip which is really great. Eco-tourism is much bigger in Scotland than people recognise so hopefully surveys like this will show what good sightings we have.”

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dolphins watch tours, a winning combination for New Zealand's tourism industry

The Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand (TIA) praised Dan and Amy Engelhaupt for their business which combines ecotourism and scientific research in the Marlborough Sounds.

Dolphin Watch Ecotours was announced winner of the Innovation in Ecotourism section of the TIA Awards at a celebration dinner in Wellington last night.

Mr and Mrs Engelhaupt said today they were delighted with the win. They were up against other finalists Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa and Whare Kea Chalet.

"We are so unique in what we do. It's nice to have some way to back that up. Something so people recognise we mean business. That we are what we say we are," said Mrs Engelhaupt.

The American couple met while studying marine biology at university in Texas. Mrs Engelhaupt focused on photo identification of bottle nose dolphins in her masters in Texas and Mr Engelhaupt later focused on genetic research of sperm whales for his doctorate in the United Kingdom.

They came to Marlborough when Mrs Engelhaupt led a research team studying dolphins off Kaikoura and bought their Picton-based company in 2002 with a plan to use it as a platform to finance and aid research of dolphins in the Marlborough Sounds.

As well as providing an educational commentary and the opportunity for tourists to ask question of experts on their tours, the Engelhaupts use each trip to gather more data and photographs.
The Engelhaupts said they were surprised at the detail of the judge's examination when they visited them in Picton in July, but pleased to know the process was taken seriously.

At the ceremony last night Northland dive company Dive! Tutukaka was awarded the supreme tourism prize. The company was started six years ago and now transports more than 12,000 people each year to dive, snorkel, kayak or sightsee at the Poor Knights Island, 25 kilometres off Northland's east coast.

Fiona Luhrs, chief executive of the Tourism Industry Association which manages the awards, said this year's awards had set a new benchmark for business excellence within the industry.

Entries are evaluated under the Baldridge business excellence process, a systematic approach to assessing and scoring finalists. Distinction awards were presented to companies that had won three awards in the business category in the past six years.

One was awarded to the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa, which won the Visitor Attraction sub-category this year and a place in the awards Tourism Hall of Fame.

New Zealand tourism arrivals have doubled since 1994 to 2.38 million visitors and tourism contributed $7.4 billion to the economy in the year ended March 2004, or 18.5 percent of exports, according to TIA.

Kids learned about rescuing dolphins

THE British Diver's Marine Life Rescue visited Kidz@play in Meethill, Peterhead, last week and carried out an 'emergency rescue' on poor Ozzy the dolphin who had become stranded at the playgroup!

Samantha McCue of Kidz @ play said: "The children have really learned something today. I saw the British Divers Marine Life Rescue in the Buchanie and thought it would be good for the children because they live near the sea.

"They have learned to stay away from seals because they can be vicious, to keep marine wildlife wet and to get help as quickly as possible. The adults have certainly learned something today too."
As well as the rescue operation the children were shown a DVD of marine rescues and were set a competition.

Andrew Ireland of the local British Divers Marine Life Rescue team said: "We are glad to get involved with the children and help them understand marine wildlife better and to show them what to do in an emergency, and not to hurt or harm the wildlife. We want to help the children appreciate marine wildlife and to develop a passion and a love for marine wildlife."

Experts argue about dolphins' intelligence!

The scientific and marine conservation communities were divided yesterday in response to a South African academic's research showing dolphins are less intelligent than lab rats or goldfish.
The study, by the University of the Witwatersrand's Paul Manger, claims the large brains of marine mammals such as dolphins and whales are to help cope with being warm-blooded in cold water and not a sign of intelligence.

He argues the dolphin, widely regarded as one of the smartest mammals, does not display enough sophistication in its behaviour to show any more intelligence than a lab rat or goldfish.

"When you look at the structure of the dolphin brain you see it is not built for complex information processing," Professor Manger said.

"You put an animal in a box, even a lab rat or gerbil, and the first thing it wants to do is climb out of it. If you don't put a lid on top of the bowl a goldfish will eventually jump out.

"But a dolphin will never do that. In the marine parks the dividers to keep the dolphins apart are only a foot or two above the water between the different pools."

Why not? Because, Professor Manger says, the thought would simply not cross their minds.
Australia's Dolphin Research Institute conservation director Jeff Weir said people tended to get angry when new evidence came to light about dolphins' character.

"There's something special about them that has fascinated people for thousands of years," he said. "But there's little evidence they're as intelligent as everyone wanted to believe.

"It's not consistent with what people want to believe - and they get upset when it's not true."

Geneticist Dr Bill Sherwin, from the University of NSW, said groups of dolphins now being studied showed the most complex social behaviour outside the human realm.

"They do have pretty complicated behaviour. There's nothing complex in chimpanzees, orang-utans or gorillas," he said.

"I've worked with a number of different species and dolphins definitely look like they're thinking about you, and reacting to you and other things in their environment.

"This is compared to another species I worked with, the bandicoot, where you could stand there and they would repeatedly run into your legs.

"When you watch dolphins interacting in groups, it's like watching office politics. The male alliances constantly change - it must take some sort of brain capacity to do that sort of thing."

Can dolphin watching tours interfere with females' parenting?

Who doesn’t have a story about their mother? Mothers are either the balm or bain of their children’s existence, sometimes both in the same day. I study how animal mothers raise their children. They neither neglect their children nor relentlessly ‘parent’ them with a constant stream of instructions. There is little punishment. Yet animals grow into functioning members of their societies. Indeed, most animal societies don’t have criminals.

Think about that.Like people, there are good and bad animal mothers. Bad animal mothers tend to be more preoccupied with their own lives then the needs of their children. Such children (especially monkeys) must make a lot of noise to get their needs met. Good animal mothers are attentive and responsive to their kids. They quickly provide what their youngster needs. Like people, the kind of attention animal children get makes a difference in how they grow up.

So what kind of mothers are dolphins? And how can you tell at sea?I spent some time today watching a mother named E and her calf Easter. E is a difficult dolphin to study. She is, to put it mildly, not interested in boats. Anytime we get remotely near her, she gathers up little Easter and rushes off. The data display her disinterest: We take pictures of dolphin dorsal fins as data. Most of E’s pictures are at a great [blurry] distance.

Luckily, her fin is distinct enough to recognize.Around noon, I found a small dolphin, too little to be by itself. It was messing around the waters of a big bay in the southern part of our study area. I saw another, bigger, fin far in the distance. It would have taken me three minutes to get over to it (we drive slowly around dolphins) so I had no idea who it was or if it was this little tyke’s mother.

Mothers with older calves (1 to 2 years old) often feed while their calf amuses itself some distance away. The older the calf, the greater the distance. Nonetheless, the two are in contact. Mother is no further from baby than she can monitor.This may be why. Calves are curious. They love to investigate. As I slowly approached, the calf zoomed by the boat a couple of times. That was all it took. Next thing you know, I see its little fin speeding towards that big fin in the distance. That big distant fin is speeding toward it.

As I pondered the dazzling dolphin communication system, E and Easter surfaced together. I sighed, throttle in neutral.When you study animal behavior, you don’t want change the behavior. Since it was E, I also expected them to rush off. Instead, they surfaced together near the boat. In turn, they arched up and glanced over at me. I was grateful and relieved. They were beginning to trust us.But that was it. I waited.

The waters remained empty. The next time they surfaced, they were far in the distance again, puffing out visible breaths from their sprint. As I watched them leave, I thought about the critical world of distance between living beings. Every creature has a specific distance it likes to keep between itself and others of its kind. This is called personal distance. Even corals and anemones have a personal distance.

Every living being also keeps a specific distance between itself and potential enemies, its flight distance. If someone steps inside this critical distance, the animal flees.To study wild animals, you first have to figure out their flight distance. You can study them when you stay outside their flight distance. E has a huge flight distance from moving boats. What happened to her that she avoids them so tirelessly?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dolphin encounters will give you the adventure that you are looking for and more

When Hurricane Wilma flooded the Florida Keys last year, the lagoon pens at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key were overwhelmed by the storm surge that rose over the highway, temporarily linking the Gulf with the Atlantic.

Here was a rare opportunity for the 16 captive dolphins at the center, and they made the most of it.
"Our stay-behind crew looked out they window at the height of the storm to see how the dolphins were dealing with it," said Mary Stella, media coordinator. "They were surfing the storm surge, having the time of their lives."

Every dolphin except a "teenaged" male named A.J. returned to his or her home pen when the water subsided.

"A.J.," said Stella dryly, "found his way into a pen with a couple of lady dolphins."
The Dolphin Research Center (DRC) was our first stop after Nellie and I registered for an afternoon "dolphin encounter" at Hawk's Cay Resort. (Our trip was prompted by helpful reader Mary Ann Sforza of Delray Beach, a veteran of six dolphin swims at Islamorada's Theater of the Sea, a bit north of the research center.) For less than $20, visitors are welcome to visit the center and watch any number of training, research and human encounter programs ongoing at the DRC just north of Marathon.

I had two questions before I got into the water with dolphins. Forget the amiable smile. These sea-going mammals are toothy carnivores.

Do they bite?

Are they stressed when land-lubbering strangers come to paw at them?

Yes, a wild dolphin might bite the fire out of you. Because dolphins are frisky and like to cavort around boats, people feed them. This is bad policy and illegal. If you go into the water with a dolphin expecting a handout, you might get bit or worse: Male dolphins are as randy as gibbons and if one makes a cross-species pass at you, you aren't going to like it.

Stella explains: "You do not want to be pinned to the ocean floor by a 500 pound dolphin who doesn't understand that you can't hold your breath for eight minutes like he can."

Freckles, bellybuttons and ice

As to my wondering whether trained dolphins are stressed by repeated contact, the answer seems to be that they thrive on it. As the media coordinator took Nellie and me down to a training session, we passed a pen by a boardwalk, and like magic, two handsome, bottle-nosed dolphins surfaced and rolled for a good look at the passersby. Stella greeted them cheerily, and they made cheerful enough clicking and chattering noises back.

"Dolphins are very curious," she said. "They want to know what's going on, and they check everybody out. If you ignore them, they will let you know it."

I noticed a canvas shade that seemed to be in place for the animals' benefit.
"Oh, yes, they burn easily and the shade protects them."

I mentioned the lovely pinkish bellies of the smaller animals. "They're born pink. The pink fades. Some have freckled bellies."

And, she noted, anticipating one of the most frequently asked questions, "Yes, they have bellybuttons."

A student trainer was heading for a training pen with a cooler of ice. I assumed there was fish in the cooler, and I was wrong.

"No, dolphins love ice," she explained. "They need fresh water. They get their fluids from their food. This is a concern because if a dolphin is sick and can't eat, they dehydrate. They love to eat ice for the fresh water. You can see over there (she pointed), they're intubating a dolphin right now — pouring fresh water directly down his throat."

Because dolphins, like whales, breathe through the top of their heads, they don't have a gag reflex and teaching them to accept water directly into their stomach is easy.

This, to me, was amazing. How, I asked, do you get a dolphin to submit to intubation?
The answer, Stella said, is training and trust. It's pretty clear that dolphins are highly intelligent and enjoy learning. Anything that is done to the dolphins, or for them, is strictly with the animal's permission.

"We are a research center and that means medical research," Stella said. "Dolphins cooperate because we teach by reward and praise." Clearly, when medical care is invasive (drawing blood, taking stool samples), the patient trusts that the discomfort or pain is for some good reason and the dolphin moves into position for the procedure.

We, along with a dozen other visitors, watched as trainers played a short-term memory game of "hide the alligator" with a young porpoise and an older companion. The alligator was a plush toy about a foot long. The trainer would first present the alligator to the student dolphin and then place it on top of one of three buckets, clearly in sight.

"Where's the alligator?"

The young dolphin would swim to the platform and nose the bucket supporting the toy. The question was repeated by placing the gator in a different bucket, this time with a bit of its tail hanging over the edge. Again he nosed the correct bucket.

"Now watch," Stella said. "The alligator will be hidden completely, and on cue, the dolphin will have to remember where it was p... Right!!!"

A whistle blast and much applause and cheering from trainers and onlookers tells the dolphin he performed exactly as requested. And he gets a piece of fish.

"Restaurant quality fish, every piece inspected for freshness," said Stella.

Before we left, the media coordinator escorted us to the platform where trainers were storing their gear. We were permitted to reach down in the water and stroke a dolphin that sidled over on request. The skin was amazingly delicate to the touch and smooth with just a suggestion of slickness.

It was time to go to our "swim-in" at Hawk's Cay, but the trainer said first the dolphins would go get Nellie a gift. A gift?

"Don't expect too much," Stella said. "We never know what it will be. It'll be something from the bottom of the lagoon — 25 or 30 feet down, probably a stone or a piece of seaweed. Whatever it is, make a fuss. Once a dolphin brought up a crab from the bottom, but when I hesitated because I couldn't avoid the claws, she got very huffy and swam away in disgust."

Both dolphins placed a strand of seaweed in her hand. "Oh, you shouldn't have," Nellie gushed.

T.L.C. dolphin-style

Later, at the resort, we were told we would get in the water with Hawk's Cay's eight dolphins. First we were fitted with wet-suit vests with enough buoyancy to float us in the lagoon. The dolphins, we were reminded, like performing and being touched if you approach them gently and take care to avoid eyes, and ear, mouth and breathing holes.

We went into the water four to a trainer and stood on a platform submerged about 4 feet. Here we waited as the dolphins were called by name by the trainer. We took turns stroking the mammals' sides and heads. For this we paid them by tossing, not placing, pieces of fish in their mouths and down their gullets.

"Ten to 15 pounds of fish a day per dolphin, depending on size," said our group leader. "We weigh the dolphins and measure out their food every day. This is a planned part of their diet."

Then we all played hug-the-dolphin, each animal consenting to swim over the platform and let us encircle him with our arms. Then we kissed the dolphin — no tongues. Are you a vinegar puss when a camera comes around? Hug a dolphin and glower no more.

After these 10-minute introductions, we gave the dolphins a break and then went into the water and by turns went off the platform to "swim." We spun in the water. Our dolphin spun a lot faster. We had a splash fight. You and a squad of beavers couldn't win a splash fight with a dolphin.

Then we played a game of "Can You Top This?"

I started by doing an underwater somersault and blowing bubbles.

My dolphin opponent then swam underwater at a speed of about 25 miles per hour, shot 20 feet into the air and turned a double flip, reentering the water with scarcely a ripple.

"OK, tie-breaker round," I said.

Later, on the four-hour drive home, Nellie and I kept trying to get a handle on the day's experience.

"That was really neat."

"They're amazing creatures."

"Do you think they really like us or they're just in it for the fish?"

"We've got to go back and take the granddaughter."

"I can't stop thinking about it."


"Amazing animals. Just amazing."

Illegal fishing of dolphins requires government's protection

The Western Australian Government is calling on the Federal Government to intensify its border protection in the state's far north.

A report prepared by the WA Fisheries Department has found that illegal fishing killed 3,600 dolphins in the past year alone.

The State Government also believes Indonesian poachers caught more than 360,000 kilos of shark, which is more than 80 per cent of WA's domestic shark catch.

The Minister for Fisheries, Jon Ford, says more patrol boats are needed in the area.
"This needs urgent immediate action," he said.

"Without boats on the water at the moment this will just go on and on."

But federal Fisheries Minister Eric Abetz says the report is aimed at justifying the closure of Western Australian shark fisheries.

"This so-called report, which I think is more an internal departmental document, has been produced to justify what could not have been justified previously," he said.

Sad dolphin story!

CHILDREN from the Samanai Primary School on Siassi Island, Morobe province, thought the cry was coming from a woman who was in trouble at sea.They left the playground and ran to the mouth of the Ber Creek where they found the bodies of 24 dead dolphins washed ashore in the night.What sounded like the wailing of a woman was in fact made by one of the surviving dolphins.

The children saw it swimming frenetically around, as if wailing for its mates.The school children were shocked over their discovery and took their teacher to the site, who told them that they were dolphins.Villagers from Siassi Island, who were in Lae recently, told the sad tale of the dolphins yesterday, especially of the surviving dolphin and how they tried to save it but to no avail.The villagers said they tried chasing it back into the sea but the dolphin would not leave its mates so they had to tie it up and pull it by boat into the sea and release it.But the dolphin kept coming back until it died.

“I can confirm the death of the large number of dolphins. I had some of the meat from the dolphins. A lot of the people, including the students from the primary school and the Siassi High School ate the meat,” one of the villagers said.The villagers, who want to remain anonymous, said it was only later that they realised the dolphins were poisoned.

Siassi leader and former provincial assembly speaker Issac Narol also confirmed yesterday that his family ate the meat of the dead dolphins.Mr Narol said the PNG Forest Authority and a logging company should not deny the deaths of the dolphins, the destruction to the environment and the pollution caused as a result of the logging activities in Block 2 of the Umboi Timber area.

A Lae based lawyer wrote to The National to confirm the deaths of the dolphins.“I refer to your report and confirm the huge number of dolphins dying helplessly in Siassi Island.“I am of the view that this matter is serious and needs to be investigated by Forest and Environment and Conservation Departments,” the lawyer, who is from the affected area, said.

Second child to be bitten by SeaWorld dolphin

A boy celebrating his birthday at SeaWorld Orlando was bitten on the hand Sunday by a dolphin he was petting.It was the second incident in three weeks in which a dolphin bit a child at SeaWorld's Dolphin Cove, a popular dolphin-petting attraction.

It took two adults to pry the dolphin's mouth open so that 7-year-old Hunter Hovan Quidor's hand could be freed, his mother, Hollie Bethany, said.The bite left the Port Orange boy's right thumb bruised. It did not break through the skin. "Maybe he thought it was a fish," the boy said.SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides said no changes are being planned for the attraction.

A hundred white-sided dolphins saved from stranding

Officials with the Cape Cod Stranding Network are monitoring waters in Wellfleet Harbor today for signs of about 100 Atlantic white-sided dolphins that were nearly stranded yesterday.

The dolphins were successfully herded out of the harbor as low tide approached. But after the group headed south towards Brewster, spotters said they had turned around and were headed back to Wellfleet late yesterday, raising concerns that there could be another stranding today.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” said Sarah Herzig, stranding coordinator for the Cape Cod Stranding Network.

Thus far this morning, spotters had seen no signs of the group.

The dolphins were herded to safety around 8 a.m. yesterday using boats, a jet ski and acoustic devices that create an annoying sound underwater, Herzig said. If the group was not moved, they could have been stranded in the harbor as low tide approached, she said.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Instead of dolphin watch, it was a dolphin watching people

Dolphin friendliness is legendary. Whether in pods, school or groups, bottlenose dolphins are usually found together at sea. Their friendliness even extends to other species of dolphins as well as to whales, tuna, whale sharks, sea lions, boats and people.People spend a lot time with other species so this may not seem remarkable. Yet social open-mindedness is rare in the animal kingdom. In captivity, a lone dolphin is very unhappy. At sea, a lone dolphin is fairly unusual. In fact, my early marine education taught me that I would “never” see lone dolphins.

This was an exaggeration. Dolphins are sometimes alone; you need time to verify that. Some appear agitated, zooming by like they’re looking for someone. Some appear content. One gentle May morning, I spied a dark silhouette on the far side of a light blue bay. I headed over across absolutely flat waters. Marine mammalogists love still days at sea. Without the wind to whip it up, the water is like a mirror. You can almost track dolphins as if the water was clear.

That’s because clues to their subsurface activities ripple to the surface. So, in such poetic conditions, I watched a young adult named Bet having breakfast alone. It was delicious.If people ate breakfast like dolphins, we’d chase fried eggs and toast swirling around a room like tortillas in a maelstrom. We’d have to grab them with our mouths, no hands allowed. We’d veer and lunge. So did Bet. I was able to track Bet by its footprints.

Dolphins don’t have feet, of course. They have a broad flat symmetrical tail flipper called ‘flukes’ for the same reason we wear a ‘pair’ of pants.Dolphins make footprints when they suddenly ‘pump’ or accelerate just under the surface. This creates a fleeting circle of surface water like a glassy pancake.

It shimmers and disappears. Boaters leave footprints too. Abrupt throttling burps out footprints. We read footprints to see where the dolphin went.I could tell Bet was chasing fish by its wave-making. Just under the surface, dolphin-turned-torpedo pushes a perpendicular swell of water off its round head. Dolphins can accelerate with incredible power, like “0 to 60 in 4 seconds.” Among their most spectacular abilities, we rarely see acceleration as trained behavior in marine parks. It would be a showstopper.Bet’s hunting was verified by fish tosses.

It occasionally tossed a fish into the air then sped over to gulp it down. This takes practice. Dolphins don’t chew. They grab and swallow. Fish have spines. To eat successfully, dolphins have to swallow prey headfirst. This way, spines slide flat down the throat of destiny. Animals tossing food may be reorienting it so they can swallow it correctly! Bet took three breaths in a row each time it surfaced. Even dolphins have to catch their breath.

The water didn’t even ripple when Bet dove again, its body forming the letter C. An engineering marvel, dolphin skin creates a unique laminar flow that minimizes the normal turbulence of a body moving through a medium like water.On the other hand, people make all kinds of splashes when we swim. On land, our arms and legs work well. In the water, well, try submerging without creating any turbulence. We can’t do it. Dolphins can.

Lone dining is not that unusual around here. I imagine it is behavior that confuses tourists who “could have sworn” they saw a dolphin but leave after a couple of minutes because the sea looks so empty. Eventually Bet left the café for another adventure. The next time you’re dining alone, remember little Bet’s breakfast at the Lone Lagoon Café.

Dolphin death toll of Western Australia is blamed on Indonesian fishing practices

AN ALARMING dolphin death toll has been blamed on Indonesians fishing in north-western waters, with thousands estimated by the West Australian Government to be dying each year.

Dolphins are being taken for bait and for food, according to the WA Government, which says there is widespread public concern about the destructive environmental effects of illegal fishing.

Its claim has been challenged by the Federal Government, which said yesterday that the limited evidence showed few dolphins were found on arrested fishing boats.

The report to the WA Fisheries minister, Jon Ford, found that hundreds of tonnes of whole shark were being caught for shark fin, and trochus shell faced local depletion.

It also estimated dolphins were being caught at the rate of around 3650 a year, or 10 each day.
Species that may range the warm tropical waters of the north-west, include the Indo-Pacific humpback, the pantropical, bottlenose and spinner dolphins.

Mr Ford said the environmental toll was estimated by interviewing state fisheries officers involved in arresting illegal fishing boats, then multiplying average catches. He said the Commonwealth had refused access to information it had about the problem.

"While the report confirms my fears on the impact on WA's fisheries, I am extremely concerned about the alarming numbers of dolphins being targeted by illegal foreign fishermen," Mr Ford said.
However, dolphins have been found on only three Indonesian fishing vessels apprehended by Australia, the federal Fisheries Minister, Eric Abetz, said in a statement. "None of these was caught off Western Australia."

A spokesman for Senator Abetz, Brad Stansfield, added that there was no doubt Indonesian poachers chased dolphins for bait. "They do not target them because they are running out of stocks of shark," he said.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Dolphin tagging program provides a lot of interesting information

Don Hammond is past the midpoint of year five in the Dolphin Tagging Research Project, a scientific study which involves tagging of the prolific pelagic species by recreational fishermen along the Southeast Coast and their subsequent recapture.

A total of 38 tags were returned this year as of Tuesday, giving Hammond plenty of information to analyze about the travels and growth patterns of the colorful, feisty and popular gamefish.

Twenty-seven of those fish had been recaptured by the end of June, marking the second highest number of recaptures for the first half of a year in the project's history.

As usual, the data from the returned tags reveals amazing and varied migratory patterns by dolphin.

The father-son team of Don and Justin Brown of Pembroke Pines, Fla., aboard Draggin' Dreams have tagged a large number of dolphins for the study, many while fishing off Islamorada in the upper Florida Keys.

The duo has tagged more than 700 dolphin since the study was originated in 2002 by Hammond and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Several dolphins tagged by the Browns revealed amazing details of the movement of the species.
One fish tagged by the Browns off Islamorada on May 26 was captured on July 16 near Block Canyon off Montauk, N.Y., 51 days later and 1,200 miles away. The fish traveled an average of 23.5 miles per day.

"That is a new domestic travel record for a [total] distance moved by a single fish," said Hammond. "That fish virtually moved the entire length of the Eastern Seabord that is utilized by dolphin."
Other fish tagged by the Browns exemplified just how swiftly dolphin can travel over a shorter period of time.

Another specimen was tagged by the Browns off Islamorada and, in Hammond's words, "was at liberty," for 15 days before it was caught off Cape Lookout, N.C. That fish traveled 702 miles during the span, an average of 46.2 miles per day.

"They very easily can travel even 50 to 100 miles per day," said Hammond, a retired biologist from S.C. DNR who now operates the dolphin project through Cooperative Science Services, LLC, out of Charleston.

Other tagged dolphins that have been recaptured this year have shown individual fish don't always travel as far. One characteristic they all have in common, though, is they are very fast growers.
Hammond cites a dolphin that was tagged offshore of Marathon in the middle Florida Keys and was captured 58 days later off Miami, approximately 100 miles away.

That fish measured 18 inches and weighed about 3 pounds when tagged and had grown to 32 inches and nearly 10 pounds when caught off Miami.

"That in itself shows there is real good justification for releasing small dolphin," Hammond said. "Give it two months and now you've got an 8-10 pound fish. An 18-inch fish has barely enough meat on it to make a sandwich. It's worth it isn't it [to release the small fish]?"

Hammond has gathered some other interesting tidbits from the study:

Hammond continues to scratch his head over the fact that no dolphin tagged in Florida has been recovered by an angler fishing in South Carolina waters in the history of the project.

Hammond points to a couple of possible causes.

"There is a natural push of the sargassum to the eastern side of the Gulf Stream and the dolphin may move to the eastern side of the Gulf Stream," Hammond said. "South Florida is like the gauntlet and it may push them to the eastern side ... to try to get away from the fishing pressure. The fish could very likely be passing by our coast beyond the reach of the anglers [on the eastern side of the Gulf Stream]."

Hammond noted large dolphin have been commonplace, especially in South Florida from Stuart to the Keys.

"It's been a phenomenal year for big dolphin," said Hammond. "This year we've seen probably more 50-pound dolphin caught off the Eastern Seaboard than in the last 20 years.

"Everybody down there [in South Florida] is talking about it."

The largest Hammond's heard of? An 84.6-pounder caught June 17 off Nassau, Bahamas.

Dolphin with virus rescued but still not out of danger

Ecologists in Action vets have transferred the dolphin that was found washed up on Serena beach last Sunday to a protected area of sea near to Roquetas del Mar marina, where she will continue her treatment.

According to an Ecologists in Action spokesperson, the sick dolphin, which is suffering from some kind of viral infection that has not yet been diagnosed, has shown very little improvement since she was found by a group of divers from Valencia.

Yesterday evening, on the advice of the Spanish Sea Mammal Society, they moved the dolphin from the portable swimming pool, where she was taken after being discovered, back to the sea to see if this has any kind of beneficial effect.

The dolphin, which is unable to maintain its balance while swimming, is male and measures 80cm long.

The team of vets responsible for its recovery has said that there have been a number of occasions over the last few days when they have feared for the dolphin's life. Latest analyses have revealed an extremely high level of parasites, and it is thought that it may be also suffering from some kind of virus.

Hungary respects dolphin protection zone in Adriatic Sea

A CROATIAN-BASED marine environmental group and its Hungarian partner are celebrating what they termed a "milestone" in the conservation of the Adriatic Sea after the Croatian authorities established the first dolphin protection zone in the entire Mediterranean region on August 6. The Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation said that the protection zone, an area of some 52,500 hectares on and around the island of Losinj, near Rijeka, in the northern Adriatic, was a "serious commitment" by the Croatian government to ensure development would not threaten further degradation of marine life in the region.

Peter Mackelworth, Blue World's conservation director, said, "We have had a marine education center in Losinj, due to support from MOL [the Hungarian oil and gas group] in 2003. This has probably been the biggest single development in our public awareness program. "And the support and advice from [Budapest-based public relations company] Capital Communications has also been very good in raising our profile and morale," he said. Blue World, an NGO staffed by a small team of Croatian and international experts, has made scientific studies of the local dolphin population over the last 20 years.

The group estimates that the number of bottle nose dolphins regularly inhabiting the waters around Losinj has declined to around 100 animals, a drop of 20%, in the past decade. The decline is largely attributable to increased human activity, most particularly shipping and fast motor-boat traffic, Blue World officials said. "We have recorded and analyzed data which show that the sightings of dolphins is inversely connected to the noise levels in the water produced by boats.

The dolphins simply disappear during July and August when traffic is at is highest. And they seem to remember the disturbances, and come back less often to the worst affected areas," said Mackelworth. He stressed that the institute was not simply "anti" development, but wanted to work with all stakeholders to ensure sustainable progress was made.

Man on jet ski, charged for endangering dolphins lives

A JET skier is to be reported to the procurator fiscal following complaints he was spotted close to a pod of bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth.

Conservationists say the incident highlights the dangers reckless jet skiers pose to Scotland's endangered dolphins, already at risk from pollution and entanglement in abandoned fishing nets.

Grampian Police were contacted following the incident in June when the 20-year-old man was seen near dolphins in the water off the Banff coast.

Police say no dolphins were injured.. However conservationists say the creatures are easily disturbed by loud noises.

Constable Dave Mackinnon, wildlife crime officer, said: "The alleged offence comes under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, for which there have been no convictions in Scotland to date."
The Moray Firth is home to about 130 bottlenose dolphins and the small population is regarded as vulnerable. It is the most northerly and largest group of the species in the world."

Mark Simmonds, director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "Whales and dolphins are air breathers and cannot simply dive away under the water and hide and they may not be able to out-pace or out-manoeuvre fast vessels. So we are asking boat users please not to chase them and to be careful when manoeuvring if these animals are near by."

Experts say solitary dolphins are particularly vulnerable to accidental harm from people because they often seek human company and can become increasingly friendly.

They often swim close to boat propellers - one vulnerable dolphin was killed in Portsmouth Harbour by a propeller strike earlier this year.

Mr Simmonds added that the noise of engines could disrupt communication between mothers and their calves, leaving them confused.

"We urge people not to encourage this behaviour by feeding dolphins or swimming with them.
"Dolphins seeking human contact often come into dangerously shallow water and many are struck and injured by boat propellers.

"It is best for the animals, and for us, if we can observe them from a respectful distance and not enter the water with them," he added.

"Even friendly dolphins can become frustrated, frightened or angry, and these large and powerful animals are quite capable of hurting us, just as we are capable of hurting them."

There are also major concerns that the dolphins could disappear as they may starve to death.
Conservationists say a lack of food stocks in the North Sea may further shrink the population.
The dolphin colony is a popular tourist attraction in the area, contributing substantially to the local economy.

Experts ask people to report dolphins sightings

What if I told you wild dolphins play with toys? If you believe me, you'd have to believe they make their own toys. That takes brains.October 2004, we were cruising the backwaters unprepared for an experience of a lifetime - but we were at the right place at the right time.Unbelievably, a young dolphin found a stick on the sea floor, surfaced with it in its mouth, tossed it and lunged to retrieve it. It was playing a game of Catch.Close to our boat, it seemed to toss the stick at us.

Did it want us to play with it? Legally, we could only watch. It was the most enthralling 20 minutes of my life at sea.In itself, dolphin play is not unusual. Dolphins are playful. In captivity, lucky dolphins who have toys carry them around, release them at the bottom and chase them to the top. Captive dolphins also play with people.Once I met with dolphin trainers at Brookfield Zoo. My friend Mary came along for the ride. As we were meeting, Mary stood near the pool with a dolphin in it.

After eyeing Mary, the dolphin tossed a Frisbee out of the pool. With a hesitant glance at us, Mary picked up the Frisbee and carefully put it back in the pool. The dolphin tossed it out again. She replaced it again. This went on until Mary realized the dolphin wanted to play with her. So they played Frisbee. She exploded with excitement on the way home. Suburbanites just don't expect an exotic animal to invite them to play.Captive dolphins also make their own toys, an intelligent act.

At San Diego's Sea World, I watched a captive dolphin playing with a string of glistening pearls. Again and again, it sucked the pearls into its mouth, shot them out, grabbed them and whirled them. It even made perfect shimmering smoke rings. Just as you wouldn't give a baby a string of beads, I couldn't believe a dolphin had a string of pearls. It could easily choke. I looked closer. The 'string of pearls' was a string of air bubbles that the dolphin had made itself. It was amazing how the bubbles stuck together. It was incredible to think the dolphin had made its own toy.

Playing with toys is one thing. Making your own is quite another. It implies brains: tool making.What happens at sea? Some wild dolphins carry things around. Australian bottlenose dolphins forage with sponges in their mouths to avoid sharp fish spines. This is not a game. It helps them feed. It is also tool manufacture. We used to think that only humans made tools. We know now that many animals make tools. Dolphins also play with seaweed, carrying in their mouths or draping it off their bodies like beautiful scarves as they swim. It doesn't seem to serve any obvious purpose.

Purposeless behavior is usually interpreted as play.Why does 'purposeless' play imply intelligence? True, it exercises the body and reflexes. It isn't wholly without benefit. But it implies that the player is in a 'frivolous' state of mind, creating sensations just for the sake of experiencing them! Humans do this all the time. Yet we seldom give other animals such credit.What made the dolphin's game of Catch so incredible is that there are many floating objects that dolphins could play with. Yet we rarely see such games at sea.

What kind of mind does it take to recognize something as a toy? Naturally, we named the little dolphin Stick. Stick has a wonderfully playful and social disposition. This awesome peek into Stick's mind invites us all to enjoy the sea whenever we can to ensure that all human behavior shows respect for her intelligent children.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Today is the whale and dolphin watch day!

Thirteen headlands around the Irish coast are being used as vantage points today for the annual nationwide whale and dolphin watch, which takes place between 2pm and 5pm today.A total of 24 varieties of cetaceans have been recorded along the Irish coastline.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group will have an expert available at each of the viewing spots to help people recognise the different species.

If you wish to learn more about whales and dolphins, I invite you to visit the following sites: http://dolphins-and-more.com and http://whales.findoutnow.org .

TV show reenacts dolphin attack!

Venice residents Chris Golden, office manager, and Mark Mason, service consultant of Gulf Harbor Marine, Nokomis, will become TV stars Sunday night when the National Geographic Channel airs "Hunter and Hunted" at 8 pm. on Comcast Channel 109.

The story is the re-enactment of a near deadly attack and drowning in the Intercoastal Waterway by the Albee Road Bridge in Nokomis in July 1993.

Golden plays Sarasota resident Kim Foy, who jumped into the water to swim with "Beggar," a dolphin given the name because of his habit of constantly begging for fish from passing boats.
The four members of the Foy family were boating when Kim, in the water with her 4-year-old son, was bitten seriously on her leg by Beggar, according to Golden.

Eight-year-old Jimmy Palm and his friend, 6-year-old Kevin Szafan, who attend Laurel Nokomis School, played the two Foy sons for the TV program.

"They were very happy to ditch a day at school and join the all-day filming session," said Donna Palm, Jimmy's mother and owner of ReMax Gulf Shores Realty in Venice.

Venetians Tom Lanaida and Alex Whalen played the two lads who during the incident were taunting the dolphin by banging the side of the boat.

Filming took place in February, when Capt. Tim and Cheryl Polito, who had opened Kahuna's Wind & Waves store six weeks earlier, were approached by Meghan O'Connor, a National Geographic Channel associate producer. She required four boats and help in finding local people to act in the TV documentary.

Making calls to colleagues, Cheryl Polito identified and put together the cast according to age requirements.

"O'Connor came into the office, told us about the filming and popped the question, 'Would you be interested in being in it, because you are around the same age and build?' " said Golden. "My first impression was no, because I could not take a day off from work for this, but then I spoke to my marina manager and he encouraged it. I went to Mark Mason, who I thought would be game for this, and he popped at the opportunity."

As Ned and Kim Foy, Mason and Golden set off with their actor "sons" for an outing accompanied by the two young men in another boat with the TV crew and cameramen following.

"They filmed us riding in the boat, getting off at an island, and even shot some film under the deck below the dock of Casey Key Fish House near Blackburn Point Bridge," said Mason.
The actors purchased bait to feed the dolphin.

Filming of the incident was done near Spanish Point, because the area near the Albee Road Bridge was being dredged, making it too murky for filming under water.

In the original incident the dolphin was all wound up from chasing from the other boat to the family boat to be fed and appears to have taken its frustrations out when Kim Foy went into the water, said Mason.

In the recreation, a cameraman was the "dolphin," riding a boogie board moving like Beggar. Golden was dragged down a couple of times under water, then "it" "bit" her leg. There was fake blood where she was badly bitten.

"They made us act like we were hysterical and she was bleeding to death," Mason said. "I dived in to save my wife."

Because they filmed on a cold day when the water temp was only about 65 degrees, Szafan did not get in the water, although the younger Foy son may have originally.

The filming took nine hours, of which Golden and Mason were in water two hours.

All the local actors and the Politos are anxiously looking forward to the National Geographic edition of events and their portrayals of the Foys.

"No, never done it before, but I would like to do it again," said Mason.

He was given the impression by the TV film crew this is part of a series to illustrate that dolphins are not like Flipper on TV, but are wild animals and people can be attacked by them. Dolphins can grow as big as 12 feet and 1,000 pounds.

Apparently it is common practice for people to buy bait with the intention of feeding Beggar, who continues to fascinate boaters, frolicking around passing vessels just north of the bridge.

Unfortunately, encouraging him to come closer to people increases the risk of another dangerous, or even deadly, confrontation.

As he cannot distinguish between a finger and bait, it is common for lots of people to get bitten, according to Mason. Feeding wildlife, although very tempting to boaters and tourists, is illegal, and fines of $150 per person can be issued to violators.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Dolphin Park faced fire!

AN electrical fault in a kitchen exhaust fan caused a fire that gutted the Dolphin Park on Al Fateh Corniche, killing a Sea Cat (marine otter), it was revealed yesterday. Gulf Dolphin Company assistant general manager Ahmed Mahmoud Abd Al Aal said the marine mammal died after smoke engulfed the two-storey building, when fire broke out on the second floor at around 11.30pm on Friday.

The only other animal inside the park, a Beluga whale survived.

A chef working at the park told officials the Sea Cat died because it was locked in a cage outside the water, during questioning at the Public Prosecutor yesterday.

He added the whale was able to survive because it could go underwater to escape the smoke.
The tragedy could have been worse had two dolphins and a sea elephant been inside the building, but they had earlier been moved to another facility in Saudi Arabia for the summer, said Mr Al Aal.
No one was injured during the blaze as the last show had finished at 9.30pm and only a handful of staff were around, he said.

A total of 13 fire engines, including an aerial platform and water tenders were sent to the scene, and around 50 firemen tackled the blaze.

It took them half an hour to bring it under control and they were still there at 2am yesterday clearing up and making the building safe.

A police cordon was used to seal off the area while firemen tackled the blaze.

"It was an electrical fault in the kitchen in an office on the second floor," Mr Al Aal told the GDN from Saudi Arabia.

""We have already taken out the other Beluga whale, which has been transferred to a private swimming pool.

"We have rented one and we have salted the water and it has air conditioning.

"The dolphins are in Saudi, we are planning to take them back to Bahrain after the season has finished."

The park puts on shows six days a week and also allows private swims with the dolphins.
Mr Al Aal was unable to give a cost of the damage the park suffered as he is currently in Saudi Arabia and said he would need to inspect it personally.

He said that he was planning to fly to Bahrain tonight.

"The office is badly damaged and also the stadium," he said.

"However, the place is insured, everything is okay." Mr Al Aal said the park could be closed for nearly two months for repairs.

New Zealand marine zoo may go without dolphins!

The dolphins have been the key drawcard at the council-owned marine zoo since it opened in the mid-1960s – with one survey finding that three-quarters of visitors had come specifically to see them.

Marineland has one elderly dolphin, called Kelly, left since her performing partner Shona died in April.

Despite a petition by local residents to the Government, the marine zoo is unlikely to win permission to acquire more dolphins, even if the council applies for approval.

Mayor Barbara Arnott said the council was looking for ways to keep Marineland going without the dolphins. "We won't see performing dolphins there ever again."

"We are carrying out an economic analysis of a project that has been put before us, to continue Marineland as a rehabilitation and research centre.

"It would need funding from the Government. We are waiting for the Government's response to the petition, which also asked for central Government funding for Marineland."

Mrs Arnott did not want to see a "hole in the ground" at the zoo's site on Marine Pde, but nor did she want to spend council money to keep it going. She expected visitor numbers to drop off after the dolphin shows ended.

"Ratepayers certainly will not want to fund something that has no return."

Marineland already does a lot of work to rehabilitate injured animals, a situation Mrs Arnott hoped could continue, perhaps with support from the Conservation Department or other government agencies.

Manager Gary Macdonald said Marineland mainly looked after penguins and other seabirds that members of the public found injured. People should not bring in marine mammals such as seals, he said.

"We do some research here already – for example, working with the Conservation Department looking at escape hatches for seals and sea lions caught in squid nets.

"University students come here to carry out research, and we could do more if we had the facilities."

Meanwhile, Kelly the dolphin was still performing "absolutely superbly" every day.

Dolphin freed from bathing suit?!

A team of Mote researchers freed a male bottlenose dolphin of material a man's bikini bathing suit that had been caught on the animal's torso for at least 28 days. The dolphin has been seen by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program since 1998 and is nicknamed Scrappy.

Sarasota Bay is home to approximately 150 resident bottlenose dolphins that have been studied by Mote researchers for more than 36 years and through five generations.

The dolphin was documented in Sarasota Bay on June 29 without the swimsuit, and first spotted with the material lodged on its torso on July 6, during a routine survey of Sarasota Bay dolphins. After monitoring the dolphin and consulting with the federal authorities, the decision was made to intervene. The team removed the clothing on Thursday.

On Thursday, a team of 30 people on five boats participated in the rescue. The team consisted of Mote staff and volunteers, including biologists, veterinarians and experienced animal handlers, and an official from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Fisheries Service. They were able to find the dolphin in southern Sarasota Bay, an area it frequents. The dolphin was brought aboard a veterinary examination vessel, the bathing suit was removed and the team performed an overall health assessment before the dolphin was released.

It appears the dolphin swam through the waist and leg hole of the suit, making it unlikely the clothing would have come off without the team's intervention.

The drag created by the bathing suit inflicted wounds on the front edge of both the animal's pectoral flippers where they attach to the dolphin's body. The wounds were ½ inch deep and ¾ inch long. Mote's Dolphin and Whale Hospital had been prepared to treat the dolphin, but fortunately, the material was removed before the injuries became life threatening or the dolphin needed extensive veterinary care.

Dr. Randall Wells is the manager of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program and also director of Mote's Center for Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Research. He says the injury would have become fatal if the researchers not taken action.

"These injuries probably would have become infected, the material would have continued cutting deeper into the dolphins flippers and would have caused the dolphin's death, had we not been able to help him," Wells said.

The dolphin also had some minor shark bite wounds. The veterinarian was able to clean the wounds, administer antibiotics and thinks the wounds will heal well. The dolphin had been seen feeding, but was somewhat underweight.

Wells' team believes that without the hindrance of the bathing suit, the dolphin will be able to feed more successfully. Before being released, the dolphin was also given a tiny radio transmitter tag so Mote researchers can continue to monitor the animal's status. As of Friday afternoon, Scrappy's movements were normal, and staff monitoring the dolphin said it looked to be doing well.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Jet-ski speeding threatens colony of dolphins

ROGUE jet-skiers were yesterday accused of endangering a barely established colony of dolphins.

Record numbers of the mammals have been spotted in the Firth of Tay this summer after a £140 million project rid the estuary of sewage.

Marine experts believe a new colony is now being formed in the Tay by dolphins that have migrated from the Moray Firth.

Swimmers and conservationists "have lost count" of the number of bottle-nosed dolphins seen this year and believe that the water's cleanliness has greatly improved.

However, jet-skiers have been racing at speeds of up to 80mph, causing stress to the pods of dolphins and raising fears that they may be scared off.

Charles Farquhar, the leisure and culture convener with Dundee City Council, yesterday called for a crackdown on the rogue jet-skiers after receiving dozens of complaints.

Mr Farquhar said: "There are a few totally irresponsible jet-ski riders who have been causing problems.

"The machines they ride are capable of travelling at 80mph, and there is a very real danger they could distress the dolphins that have been using the Tay.

"People have been enjoying seeing the dolphins all summer, and it would be a great pity if the actions of a few individuals chased them away.

"In most cases, they will have had no training in the use of these powerful machines and no safety advice," he said, "They also come in close to the beach and the water where people are swimming, and this can be a very frightening experience for people who are out there enjoying themselves."

Mr Farquhar has contacted Tayside Police to highlight the issue.

Charles Webster, councillor for Broughty Ferry, said that he had witnessed two jet-skiers disrupt a "spectacular display of dolphins".

Mr Webster said: "The two jet-skiers came very close to where the dolphins were.

"They couldn't not have seen the dolphins. They didn't appear to stay away from them and they didn't cut their speed either.

"It's actions like this we need to put a stop to."

He added: "We will be continuing to work with Tayjet Personal Watercraft Club, which represents the extremely responsible enthusiasts who use the water safely, the port authority and other agencies to deal with the problem."

Tayjet Personal Watercraft Club, at Broughty Ferry, has a dolphin, porpoise and whale policy. Its guidance states: "Collisions with boats or jet-skis may result in injury or death of cetaceans; engine noise may interfere with their acoustic communication, prey-detection and orientation systems; and erratic patterns of movement of boats may cause the animals to suffer stress."

If dolphins become stressed, they are likely to move to other areas.

Tayjet also advises that riders should not go above five knots, or about 5.5mph, when operating near dolphins.

A spokesman for the club added: "All of our members receive full training and instruction, and that includes how to respect all aspects of marine life."

Dolphin lost in pond

A dolphin was found in a pond at Kakaldi village of Sirajdikhan upazila early Thursday. On hearing this news, thousands of people thronged around the pond to have a glimpse of the dolphin. Local people said they were surprised to see a dolphin floating in the pond adjacent to the Kakaldi Bridge in the early hours of Thursday.

On information, Sirajdikhan thana officer - in - charge rushed to the spot with his force. Local fishermen said the dolphin might slip into the pond after losing its path in the canal linked with the river. At one stage, the fishermen tried to catch the dolphin with their net. But it tore off the net and swam away.

Stranded dolphin was rescued in UK!

SOLENT Coastguard has been liaising this morning with various rescue organisations after it received a call at 11am reporting a stranded dolphin in Chichester harbour, on the south coast of England.The Harbour Patrol craft has been on scene throughout.

The BritishDivers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) organisation was also alerted. Its teams are on standby to respond immediately to any marine disaster or marine mammal stranding anywhere in the UK. It sent a vet and two medics to the area.

The mammal was transferred to a Landover, transported to a safearea and, with the BDMLR in attendance, an attempt will be made toreintroduce it back into the sea later this afternoon at Northneymarina.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Sea World dolphin bites boy!

A six-year-old Georgia boy is recovering from a dolphin bite he received at SeaWorld Orlando's Dolphin Cove.

It happened Sunday night.

The boy's mother says she beat on the dolphin's snout, after it grabbed her son's left arm.

The dolphin's teeth did not break the child's skin. He has a bruised arm and is expected to be fine.
SeaWorld says the dolphin will be watched and possibly re-trained.

The family was given a private dolphin viewing and offered tickets for a return visit. However, the boy's mother says he does not really want to see any more dolphins right now.

Hopes are up for dolphin therapy centre

PARENTS OF children with Down’s syndrome were left disappointed when the Agriculture Ministry turned down its request to set up a dolphin therapy centre.“We are always looking for new ways to keep our children preoccupied and when we heard that dolphin therapy benefits children with Down’s syndrome, we thought it would be a good way to entertain them,” Michalis Louca, chairman of the Down’s syndrome Association said.“I don’t know exactly how it helps, but the general concept from European and international associations is that it has been found to help…We wanted to give the children a chance. When you have a child and you know something will help him or her, then (as a parent) you will try to offer your child whatever you can within your reach and ability.”He said the association had even succeeded in securing a local businessman’s backing for the proposal.

“We managed to get someone to invest in the project, someone who would cover the costs of building a special aquatic centre and pay for the importation of the dolphin… The same businessman said he would create jobs for Down’s syndrome children at the centre,” he said.Louca told the Cyprus Mail the proposal’s details had not been worked out pending the ministry’s response.“We wanted to see if the response would be positive or negative before going further.”Louca said the association had thought to import two to three dolphins to start with.

“We’d have gone into detail if the government had said yes. There was also a suggestion that once the centre was up and running it could be used as a sort of aquarium and allow other people to pay an entrance fee to come in and see the dolphins so that the investor could recoup some of his money.”But the Agriculture Ministry turned down the association’s application to import the aquatic mammals on the grounds that dolphins are a protected species under international treaties. Senior Environment official Antonis Antoniou added: “The Cabinet also decided to ban the use of dolphins for any purpose.”The decision was reached several years ago following the death of four dolphins and a sea lion at an Ayia Napa marine park.

The park had been allowed to deteriorate by its owners which resulted in the mammals’ death. The International Animal Rescue (IAR) was alerted to the park’s appalling conditions and in 2000 stepped in and saved the life of its one remaining sea lion.However Louca said the association was currently in the process of determining to what extent the ban extended to using the marine creatures for therapy purposes.

He said: “Personally I think it’s a small possibility [that we’ll be granted the import licence] but we plan to exhaust all avenues. We’ve heard that there’s something similar in Greece [a dolphin centre] and we want to examine if they’ve had any problems with the European Union. If they haven’t and they’re allowed to operate the centre long term then we’ll look into it. If they’re only allowed to operate it for a limited period of time then we won’t bother with it [the project] anymore.”Antoniou said the association could try and reapply all it wanted but it would get nowhere.“

A political decision was made and it’s strictly forbidden. There is no way they will be allowed to import the dolphins,” Antoniou said.What is Dolphin Therapy?DOLPHIN THERAPY refers to a type of treatment for people with and without disabilities by using dolphin interaction as an attempt to rectify or lessen the disability.It dates back to the 1950s and the work of Dr John Lilly, who studied the effects of dolphins on individuals with disabilities.

In the early seventies Dr Betsy Smith, an educational anthropologist, noticed the therapeutic effects of dolphins on her disabled brother. A few years later dolphin therapy was developed by Dr Nathanson at the Dolphin Human Therapy centre in Florida, America. Dr Nathanson studied the interaction between dolphins and children with Down’s syndrome and as he obtained good results more centres opened world wide.

Because dolphins seem to enjoy spontaneous nonverbal play and have a reputation for being both gentile and attentive, some therapists believe that these animals may be able to help them teach and motivate otherwise unresponsive people. Theories range from a belief that individual experience stimulation of the immune system when interacting with dolphin, thus promoting healing; to a belief that the individuals receive such joy and unconditional love from dolphins that they are more apt to experience recovery.

One of the most popular theories is that the dolphin’s use of sonar and echolocation produces changes in a person’s body tissue and cell structure. Similar to the effect of music therapy, some researches have suggested that the sounds dolphins emit thought their whistles and clicks help produce these change.The aim of the therapy is to increase sensory activities. Programmes take place in a pool with captive or semi-captive dolphins and therapists assist children who are asked to swim, touch, feed or pat the animals.

Therapists work on specific areas such as speech, behaviours and motor skills, they customise programmes to the needs of the children. Benefits from Dolphin Therapy include:· Strong emotional change· Children calm down· Improved communication· Increased attention span · Increased confidence and self esteem ·

Improved gross or fine motor skills · Better co-ordination· Better eye contact, smiling, laughing, touching · Better immune system. Researchers have also found that dolphin therapy alleviates depression, boosting production of infection fighting T-cells, stimulating production of endorphins and hormones, enhancing recovery, and reducing pain. These results are based on examination of brain wave patterns, psychological testing, blood chemistry, health of the immune system, the state of the brain, and cell make up.

Children and adults with the following conditions may receive benefits from this type of treatment: Autism, Rett Syndrome, Down Syndrome, mental retardation, spinal cord injury, visual impair, cerebral palsy, ADHD, Cancer, post traumatic stress disorder, speech and cognitive difficulties, multiple forms of emotional problems, and mentally, emotionally, and physically impaired children.

If you wish to learn more about dolphin assisted therapy, I invite you to visit the following site: http://dolphins-and-more.com

Dolphin watch, a wonderful experience!

We all know there is 'power in numbers.' Sunday morning, July 16, we saw this idea in natural action.We were sharing a calm moment with Grin and Twin Dip, large battle-scarred dolphins. They swam north between the channel markers.Their body language said they were relaxed, which pleased us. This is a probable pair of bulls. Like stallions, they aren't always relaxed.

They swam about a dolphin body length apart. Body length is a way to measure distance between dolphins (dispersion).Bulls often swim one precise body length apart. It advertises their united front. Today, Grin and Twin Dip swam slowly and surfaced often. Big and powerful, these two often submerge, torpedo through the water and emerge a great distance away. So this was special access.We strolled for several minutes. We spied another group in the distance.

They surfaced as one in a cove near a little mangrove island. The pair headed over. A funny little figure burst out of the water - a new baby. This one was even tinier than Chunk's new calf Cohen spotted on the 4th of July. Despite its flash at a surface, we glimpsed the shine of its dark chocolate coat. Brand-new dolphins are shiny like brand-new reptiles. Unlike hatchlings, they are also wrinkly. Its clumsy little surfaces heralded someone just a few days old, maybe less.

Thrilled, we were also concerned. Reputedly, bottlenose bulls are not always nice to babies.Half a dozen adults surrounded the new baby. Tanks and DD1 were there. Tanks is a female. We don't know if DD1 is a female. I often wonder if it is a cozy old grandma. Never seen with a calf of its own, it is clearly comfortable with calves. Content in return, calves swim in sync with its comfy stride. Chunk was there with little Cohen. At a month old, Cohen looked positively adept compared to little Shiny. Shiny's mom had a clean dorsal fin; she is probably a young mother.

Two thoughts struck at once: How reassuring to be a young mother in the company of experienced females and "You boys be nice to that new baby."The probable bulls joined the nursery group. They all disappeared. You always have to wait to see what happens next. Suddenly, a dolphin tail whipped the surface, spewing water sideways in a low-angled splash. This is a dolphin punch. Angry dolphins slug each other with the entire back half of their beefy bodies.

A tail whip is like getting hit with a dining room table -a good reason to watch dolphins from a boat at a distance. Next, a dolphin was streaking just under the surface in powerful wave-make behavior: A smooth wave of water rippled perpendicularly off its head as it launched a commanding burst of speed.Then the water was quiet.Finally, Grin and Twin Dip emerged in the distant north, prudently continuing their trek. The nursery group milled on the other side of the boat. One at a time, each tiny calf shot up at the surface.

This breathing thing is hard to perfect.What happened was one of the females took a slug at the pair, "Get lost!", and then chased them away. Curiously, the pair complied. Why? Was it their mellow mood? Even stallions relax occasionally. Or was Grin or Twin Dip a son or brother of someone in the nursery group? Bottlenose dolphins live up to 50 years. Like a small town, everyone knows everyone. Maybe they had just swung by to see the new baby or determine if any females were 'dating' that morning. Who is the new mother?

Were the other females protecting the new babies? We wouldn't question this behavior in humans. Remembering Chunk's solitary swim over the 4th of July, we realized that calves of social mothers have a better chance of surviving these first tenuous weeks of life.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"