Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dolphin's behavior can be puzzling

How many times do you have to see something to believe its real? Scientists grapple with this daily. Therefore, we collect data, more reliable than memory.One data-deserving behavior is called "just swinging by." Dolphins swing by when they approach the boat, check us out and resume their activities. Dolphin behavior is complicated because they match moods with the sea.

Yet, their behavior can be roughly divided into distractible and non-distractible. Distractible dolphins approach the boat. We suspect they aren't doing anything in particular and seek amusement, which boats can sometimes be. They may continue to do what they were doing when we approached and just bring it over as if we're another group of dolphins.

They may change what they were doing to approach us and continue to switch from one behavior to another. This reinforces our impression that they weren't doing anything in particular when we arrived. Dolphins swim all the time. That doesn't mean they're always doing something specific. Most animals have a lot of down time; busy humans are the main animals who violate this natural law. Either way, distractible dolphins provide the exquisite experience of watching them at close range at their prerogative.

There's no privilege like it on earth.Non-distractible dolphins are preoccupied. They ignore or avoid the boat. They're particularly non-distractible when hunting, traveling great distances under the water in search of prey. They're largely non-distractible when having sex too. 'Just swinging by' is a little of both. As we headed toward the last bay on our route, we saw a water bottle on the water."There's a lot of garbage around here," I thought as I reached for the net, "but at least it's not a plastic bag."Turtles here live on jellyfish.

A plastic bag looks like a jellyfish to a turtle. Eating a plastic bag kills turtles slowly, horribly, of starvation. The offending bottle slid along the boat and flowed into the net. I flipped it into the hold. It just took a couple of minutes. For those minutes, I hadn't been watching for dolphins. Turning to the sea, I was surprised by a mother and calf 6 feet from the boat. They headed right for us, their rounded heads like gray animated basketballs at the surface.

It was X and Little X. Little X was glued to X's side the way they do when traveling somewhere specific. It rose when she rose. It submerged when she submerged. They were clearly en route. They surfaced next to us several times in short succession, peering into our eyes. Then they reappeared 50 yards away, continuing on their way. Considering all the available water, they didn't have to surface next to our boat. Data collected, we too continued on our way. I turned and saluted as we moved off.We spied another mother and calf, JJ and Rim, at the very end of our route.

They spent last summer here, wintered elsewhere and returned in April. We were having brunch at the Pub when they swam past with Grin and Twin Dip. Rim spends more and more time with dolphins besides JJ, not quite psychologically weaned from mom. Though I was scanning this time, JJ and Rim appeared out of nowhere. Dolphins are of course entirely capable of "appearing out of nowhere." They hold their breath for minutes, even tiny calves.

They surface wherever they like. They don't have to surface near a boat. Yet, they too swung by the boat.Four times, they surfaced nearby, drawing closer each time to peer at us frankly. Given their first surface, "I bet they go under that causeway and just swung by to say hi." Indeed, they next appeared under the distant causeway. They too had changed course to approach, make eye contact and continue on their way.

To legally experience marine mammals closer than the mandated 50-yard harassment-free zone, you need a federal permit. Inherent in the permit is the supposition that closer interaction between dolphins and boat is the dolphins' choice. We make every effort not to change the behavior we study. But, our very presence on the water changes things if for no other reason than the throbbing intrusion of our engine on the vital aquatic sound stage.

When the dolphins draw closer than our data collecting distance, it's their choice. In fact, all close observations are because the dolphins let us. If dolphins wish to evade boats, no boat captain, regardless of experience, can change that if they wish to avoid harassing the animals. We remain very aware that dolphins let us study them. So, if it's their call, what are dolphins doing when they swing by? Are they curious, acknowledging, or perhaps greeting?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dolphin harassed by people

Dave has been living off Folkestone for the past few months and is often seen swimming between the town and Seabrook.

But there have been reports of jet skiers and people in other motorised boats getting too close to him.

Police urged people to keep their distance after kayakers were seen harassing Dave on Tuesday.
They said no one should go within 100m of the dolphin.

They are wild animals and should be treated with respect
Pc Andy Small said.

And people have been warned not to approach, grab, touch or try to swim with him.
Pc Andy Small said: "Dolphins are well loved creatures and very friendly towards humans.
"However, they are wild animals and should be treated with respect."

Dolphins are protected by law and recklessly or intentionally harassing them could lead to prosecution, officers have said.

Kent Police said the force Marine Unit would take action against anyone who annoyed Dave.

Risso dolphin did not survive rescue

A dolphin that was found wounded in San Fabian on Monday died at 6 a.m. Tuesday. The dolphin weighs about one ton and measures about 10 feet and three inches long. It was six feet and six inches in circumference.

It was given a decent burial at 11 a.m. also Tuesday at the Fish Cemetery inside the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar) research center in Bonuan Binloc. Bfar officials said the cause of the dolphin's death was "stress".

Wounded Risso's dolphin may survive!

Hope is high that a wounded dolphin found in Cayanga River in the northern town of San Fabian will survive.

Westly Rosario, head of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources research center in the city, said the Risso's dolphin was very weak when San Fabian fishery officials brought it to the center Monday.

"It was already belly-up when it was brought here, but after we gave it some medications, it seemed to get stronger and seemed to have regained its balance," he said.

The one-ton dolphin, which measures 10.3 feet long and has a 6.6 feet girth, has a wound in the left mouth. Rosario said the dolphin had welts around its body, perhaps caused by ropes used to tie it and pull it out of the Cayanga River.

The Risso’s dolphin, also known as Grampus, can be found in temperate and tropical waters.

Friday, September 22, 2006

New campaign against dolphins' slaughtering practice

As the annual dolphin drive hunts begin in the Japanese villages of Taiji and Futo, a consortium of scientists and zoo and aquarium professionals has launched a campaign to end the practices through public awareness and by appealing to the government of Japan to put an end to the hunts. The "Act for Dolphins" campaign--which includes members from The New York Aquarium, Emory University, and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) --maintains that the hunts, which result in the deaths of thousands of dolphins every year, are inhumane by any ethical standard and should be discontinued immediately.

Occurring annually from September to April, the dolphin hunts are regulated by the Japanese government and conducted by groups of fishermen who herd hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dolphins and small cetaceans into shallow bays by banging on partially submerged rods that create a sonic barrier. The dolphins are then corralled into nets and dispatched in a brutal manner: speared, hooked, hoisted into the air by their tails, and finally eviscerated alive. The methods, say researchers, result in a long and painful death for these intelligent marine mammals.

The Japanese government has made the unsupported claim that the animals compete with local fishermen for limited supplies of fish and that the drives are in fact a means of pest control. Also, the "Act for Dolphins" consortium maintains that, in spite of the fact that the hunting of dolphins and use of their meat has waned in popularity, the government is actually encouraging the public to consume more dolphin meat; in addition to human consumption, dolphin meat is also used as pet food and fertilizer. The drive hunts also result in the capture of live dolphins for aquariums and interactive swim programs in Japan and China, in direct violation of the Code of Ethics maintained by WAZA.

"The Japanese dolphin drive hunts are an abominable violation of any standard of animal welfare, and these hunts inflict measurable pain and suffering on animals that are intelligent, sentient, and socially complex," said Dr. Diana Reiss, Senior Research Scientist and Director of the New York Aquarium's Marine Mammal Research Program.

The "Act for Dolphins" campaign involves scientists and veterinarians from the New York Aquarium, Emory University, the School of Medicine at the University of San Diego, Dalhousie University, the University of Hawaii, the University of Notre Dame, and professionals from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The immediate goals of the campaign are to raise public awareness of the dolphin drive hunts , to boost measurable support through the group's website petition ( which currently includes over 22,000 signatures, and to convince the Japanese government to end the hunts on ethical grounds.

According to the group, the ethical argument for ending the drive is supported by a solid foundation of scientific evidence indicating that dolphins possess the mental and emotional capacities for pain and suffering on a par with great apes and humans. It is also increasingly clear that dolphins have social traditions and cultures, complex interdependent relationships, and strong family ties all of which are susceptible to disruption or even dissolution in the drives.

"The scientific evidence is abundantly clear--the Japanese dolphin hunts are an assault on intelligent, sentient, and emotional beings with brains that should make us all stop and think" said Dr. Lori Marino, Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University.
Aside from the issue of welfare, researchers point out that the dolphin drive hunts also raise concerns about the conservation status of several species of cetacean taken in the hunts, which indiscriminately target all species of cetacean. Besides bottlenose dolphins, which make up the bulk of the annual take, the hunts also include striped dolphins, spotted dolphins, Risso's dolphins, false killer whales, and short-finned pilot whales.

Most of the species are included on the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species. Also, the hunts have resulted in growing criticism from relevant management organizations on both conservation and welfare grounds, including the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the treaty organization that regulates the hunting of the great whale species.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

New therapeutic dolphin park waiting for approvals!

Stafford Burrowes, pending approvals, will develop a $500 million dolphin attraction at Point, a seaside community in Hanover, later this year for a Miami and Key Largo based rehabilitation company which plans to set up its practice in Jamaica.

The plan will give effect to a health tourism product that to now has only been talked about by policymakers.

Dr. David Nathanson, who runs a practice offering Dolphin Human Therapy (DHT), says he will be relocating his business to Jamaica once the therapy centre is built.

He anticipates that the new marine attraction could bring in an additional 67,600 more visitors per year for average stays of three weeks each.

The dolphin facility at Point is to have similar features to its forerunner in Ocho Rios, St. Ann but spread across a larger area of 20 acres.

Burrowes, managing director of Dolphin Cove, tells the Financial Gleaner he is still in the process of acquiring the land, saying the process began two and a half years ago, but refused to disclose the vendor with whom he is negotiating.

He was similarly cagey about financing, saying only that the mix included loans and equity.
The plan also has to hurdle planning and environmental approvals.

Burrowes said Nathanson was relocating his 40-year-old practice because the property he occupied in Florida had been sold by its owners.

"We want to start this year; we are waiting on permits," said the marine attractions owner/ developer, referring to approvals from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
"We plan to do something we don't do here, which is Dolphin Human Therapy.

The therapy is often used with autistic children.

"I am convinced that our programme can be a very great contributor to the Jamaican economy and to the development of disabled Jamaican children,"

said Nathanson in a letter to Burrowes, who is sold on the idea.

"Our planning for 2007 needs to begin almost immediately," said Nathanson in his letter.

DHT uses interaction with dolphins as a reward for correct responses in therapy for individuals diagnosed as autistic, persons with down syndrome, traumatic brain injury and other chromosomal abnormalities.

Nathanson operates 40 weeks per year in the US, suspending sessions when wintery water temperatures make it too cold for children with disabilities.

Shifting the practice to Jamaica, a tropical country, would allow the therapist to operate a seven-day clinic.

The proximity to Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

"I would have done it here (Ocho Rios) if we had the capacity," said Burrowes who said he was anxious to get approvals, adding that the facility might require at least six more dolphins which he would likely have to import.

Nathanson treats approximately 200 families per week. His clients are mainly out of Europe.

Contest to name new baby dolphin at the Seaquarium in Miami

One of South Florida’s favorite tourist attractions has had a couple of visits from the stork and the Miami Seaquarium wants to get you involved in the celebration.The Miami Seaquarium is now home to a brand new baby dolphin. The 35 pound, 3 ½ feet long, Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin was born at the newly renovated "Windows to the Sea" at Miami Seaquarium on September 10th, 2006.

The baby boy dolphin, still unnamed, was born to mother “Samantha” and father “JJ” and is a third generation Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin born at the park.Here’s where you come in. The Miami Seaquarium has launched a baby naming contest for the brand new Bottlenose dolphin.If you think you’ve got the winning name for the baby boy dolphin, just click here and submit your suggestion.

You could win 20 tickets to the Monster Splash Halloween Nighttime Bash.In addition, a newborn California Sea Lion was born at the park's Golden Dome on June 8th, 2006. Now weighing more than 35 pounds, the sea lion pup named Diesel is a male and weighed an estimated 17 pounds at birth. He can be seen at the park's Sea Lion feeder pool exhibit learning to swim, engaging in social activity and playful behaviors.

Protection agreement to be sign in South Pacific

A group of South Pacific nations will sign an agreement to help protect and conserve whale and dolphin species, New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter said Thursday.

The memorandum, developed under the international Convention on Migratory Species, is due to be adopted Friday at a ministerial meeting of the South Pacific Regional Environment Program in the New Caledonian capital, Noumea, he said.

Up to 11 South Pacific nations were likely to sign the regional agreement, with a minimum of four signatories needed to bring it into force, Carter said.

Among South Pacific states likely to take part are Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu, but a spokesman for the minister, Nick Maling, declined to confirm those expected to sign.

Vanuatu was the latest to join several South Pacific states in declaring a whale sanctuary in its exclusive economic zone, stretching up to 320 kilometers (200 miles) from its shoreline.

The memorandum commits signatory states to a range of voluntarily initiatives to protect and preserve whales and dolphins, including unspecified threat reduction measures and habitat protection.

It calls on participants to:

_recognize that their survival depends on their conservation over a wide area and in a range of marine and coastal habitats;

_conduct socially and economically important activities like fishing and tourism in an ecologically sustainable manner;

_review, enact or update laws to conserve cetaceans;

_implement conservation measures where they do not already exist for vulnerable cetacean populations, and

_implement an action plan to reduce threats to the mammals, protect habitats and migratory ocean corridors and respond to strandings and entanglement of the mammals.

Carter said there is a high level of support among Pacific people for conserving whales and dolphins.

"It doesn't stop Japanese whaling, but ... it enhances the protection particularly of dolphin species, which aren't so migratory," he told National Radio.

"Until now the primary international forum for discussing whale conservation has been the International Whaling Commission, which is widely regarded in the Pacific as outdated, deadlocked and expensive for poorer countries to join and attend," he said in a statement.
The memorandum, under the Convention on Migratory Species, "provides a new, more attractive and affordable alternative to the IWC for Pacific countries interested (in) pursuing whale conservation," he added.

Health condition of dolphin with scoliosis is improving

Zoo vets, trainers and officials were encouraged by the attitude and performance of a very special dolphin. Ayla, a 14-year-old dolphin with scoliosis, was presenting her tail flukes so veterinary technician Jennie Prom could draw blood."A week ago, all we could do was offer food and she would eat," said Minnesota Zoo Marine Mammal Supervisor Diane Fusco.Fusco had feared she and her colleagues would have to corral Ayla and immobilize her so they could get the blood sample."It's really good," she said about the dolphin cooperation.

"We're really excited about that."Fusco and her trainers called zoo veterinarians when Ayla went off her food, and stopped cooperating with her trainers last June.Veterinarians found bacteria in her blood, and shadows in X-rays of her lungs."You can see some haziness where the lungs are, and that's an indication that she might have a little bit of interstitial pneumonia going on," said Senior Minnesota Zoo Veterinarian Jim Rasmussen.

They began treating Ayla with antibiotics stuffed into the herring and capelin they feed her.She began eating more readily, and cooperating with her trainers again.That was a relief.Ayla has scoliosis, a twisting and bending of the spine. It inhibits her breathing, and keeps her from participating in some of the dolphin hyjinks the rest of the pod demonstrate."Her spinal column is pretty significantly twisted to the side and also has some deviation up and down as well," said Senior Veterinarian Rasmussen."It's kinda "S" shaped to the side and has some distortion top to bottom as well," he said."Probably it's reducing her lung capacity."

"It would predispose her to respiratory problems. She can't exhale quite as well as a normal animal so bacteria can get into her lungs and they don't probably blow out... they aren't exhales or expectorated as easily as they are in a normal animal."Dr. Rasmussen said this blood sample would be analyzed for bacteria, but he's optimistic."Clinically, she's improved remarkably, and she's acting normal, but we going to follow up on the blood work to make sure that's continuing to improve as well.The veterinarian said Ayla had seemed better, then relapsed, so they're continuing the antibiotics.Ayla was born at the Minnesota Zoo in 1992.

About a month after her birth, trainers noticed her dorsal fin began leaning to the left, and a lump had appeared on her left side. A week after that, a second lump appeared on her right side.Zoo staff have treated her for respiratory problems several times.Dolphins life expectancy is typically greater than 25 years."If she had been born in the wild," said Dr. Rasmussen," I don't think she would have survived more than a day or two."On September 26, Ayla will turn 14 at the Minnesota Zoo.

Do dolphins fight?

I remember a talk I gave to kindergarteners on animal behavior. All they wanted to know was how animals fight. If an alligator and a whale had a fight, they asked, who would win? If an anaconda and a tiger had a fight, who would win?I quickly decided I couldn’t win. Human interest in conflict is constant. Ok. How do dolphins fight? Late Saturday afternoon, there was a big dolphin fight on the shallow grass flats behind our largest mangrove island. Dolphins act like people. They are friendly and affectionate. They are protective. They get irritable.

They fight to get what they want. Dolphins don’t have physical structures like real estate or abstract concepts like money. They can’t fight symbolically. They use their bodies to get things done. Their bodies reflect the fights they’ve been in.When dolphins have obvious physical contact with each other, marine mammalogists say they are ‘socializing.’

There’s lots of dolphin socializing. Dolphins are sensual animals like people become sensual in the water. We can’t help it. Water creates lovely sensations. We swirl and roll and wiggle. Water does that for us and to us. It’s our skin. Most naked animals love water: elephants, walruses, hippos. Skin gives us more sensations than fur lets in.When dolphins are affectionate, their movements are gentle and slow.

They’re done easily underwater. We rarely see dolphin affection from the surface. It happens underwater regularly.When dolphins are angry, their movements are hard like a punch is hard. If you’re a dolphin, your tail is your fist. Dolphins punch each other by whipping each other with their peduncles (tailstocks). The behavior is called tail whips. Water makes it hard to punch underwater. Water takes the punch out of your punch.

Consequently, dolphins fight in shallows like sea grass meadows. It’s easier to get their peduncles out the water to throw a punch. Once that happens, tensions sometimes escalate into brawls. Without warning, we were alerted to a potential fight by the sudden appearance of a dolphin bowing over the glistening water. Dolphin bows are beautiful U-turns in the air. They shoot out of the water, bend in the letter C and reenter the water nearly where they came out. Bows tells us dolphins are ‘socializing’ under the water.

Bows can mean tensions. They are used to zing by someone at close range. Snow boarders and skaters know what I mean. Bows are also used to knock someone over. Though very pretty, bows can be intimidation tactics. The dolphin bowed along the edge of a sea wall where a shallow sand mesa drops an abrupt 20 vertical feet. Its reentry was clean, flawless. The water settled. But something was brewing. We were glued to the empty water.When the action ignites, everyone starts punching like a barroom brawl. Water erupted over the grass flats. Lunging and swinging, brawling opponents created great water turbulence.

Water lashed sideways from tail whips. The more powerful these splashes, the harder the punches and more earnest the conflict. This fight was serious. The fight went on and on, punctuated by three to four punches traded at the surface. Between punches, the dolphins took the fight underwater where biting and toothraking is easier. Then they’d surface, breathing heavily. Their vaporous breaths rose skyward. It’s hard to brawl in water for long.

Between punches and heavy breathing, a dolphin sharked slowly along the water surface and then paused, rafting. From there, it climbed over another dolphin. Then the punching started again.You had to wonder if there was a receptive female underneath it all, although who isn’t ‘receptive’ in the face of aggression. Most animals brawl over mating rights. Like human males, bulls are quintessentially competitive about receptive females.

Dolphins here tend to give birth in late summer. Females are pregnant a year. So along with new moms and babies, it makes sense that there would also be lots of sex and fights over sex in late summer.

Not only must we keep the sea grass beds healthy for the fish. We must keep them healthy for dolphin tournaments like this one. Admission is free. Just remember that the bleachers are 50 yards away from the boxing ring.Postscript. The next day, we found a brand new baby dolphin, the eighth born here this summer.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan is inhumane!

Today, WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, renewed its call for an end to the cruel slaughter of dolphins in the annual dolphin hunts that occur in Taiji, Japan.

Normally commencing on Oct. 1, the hunts started a month early with the round-up of approximately 25 bottlenose dolphins in Taiji on Sept. 6. Six of these animals were sold to the Taiji Whale Museum. Last year, the museum exported dolphins to China and it is possible these newly-captured animals will enter international trade.

Every year, up to 2,000 dolphins are killed in these so-called "drive hunts." In these hunts, groups of dolphins are rounded up by speedboats at sea and herded into a harbor, where they are surrounded by nets and then slaughtered, or selected alive for trade in the lucrative aquarium industry. In April of this year, WDCS released its report, "Driven by Demand," detailing the involvement of aquariums in these brutal hunts.

The cruelty endured by dolphins caught in drive hunts is immense. Aboard motorized boats, drive hunt fishermen bang metal pipes over the side of their boats to disorient the animals and drive them toward shore where they are stabbed with long knives, usually just behind the blowhole or across the throat.

Some dolphins caught during Japanese drive hunts are kept alive and set aside for sale to theme parks and aquaria. The high pay off by park officials for these animals provides fishermen with motivation to continue the drives.

Dolphins are highly intelligent and socially-complex animals. Scientific studies have shown that the bottlenose dolphin, one of the main species targeted in the hunts, is capable of recognizing itself in a mirror, a trait only shared by humans and the great apes. Sentient and aware, these animals exhibit signs of great distress during their capture, round-up and subsequent slaughter.

"The methods of slaughter employed in these drive hunts constitutes nothing more than a crime against nature," said Courtney S. Vail, North American campaigns officer for WDCS. "This is a brutal practice that has no place in civilized society." WDCS will join international animal welfare and conservation groups on Sept. 20 for a "Day of Protest" against the dolphin drive hunts in Japan to occur in cities across the globe.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Dolphin rescue stories will be on the air!

For centuries, humans have been fascinated with dolphins - not only for their beauty and spirit, but for their unique intelligence. "Dolphin Rescue," debuting on WEDU-Channel 3 at 8 p.m. Sept. 12 follows the rescue of Atlantic bottlenose "Val" mired in Old Tampa Bay's mud flats, and the rehabilitation of a deep-water Risso's, rarely seen by human eyes. Meet some special animal lovers who have committed their lives to understanding and preserving dolphins.

Research and rehabilitation facilities such as Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory often nurture sick or injured bottlenose dolphins back to health, and many times assist in their release into their natural habitat. Last summer, after a stranding of five Risso's dolphins near Marco Island, Mote embraced the task of nursing the two survivors back to health.

Follow Mote's dedicated team and its several-month relationship with Risso's dolphins "Bonnie" and "Clyde." The journey ends on WEDU Board Member Cathy Unruh and husband Tom Sansone's boat, eighty miles offshore, in an unprecedented effort to return one of these special marine mammals to its deep-water home.

"Stories such as Dolphin Rescue are the future of public television stations. WEDU is proud to be producing more and more local programming," said Richard Lobo, president and CEO of WEDU.
The 30-minute local documentary has several encore airings: 2 p.m. Sept. 15, 8 p.m. Sept. 17 and 2 p.m. Sept. 18.

WEDU is West Central Florida's primary PBS station, serving Tampa, St. Petersburg and Manatee/Sarasota.

Baby dolphin will receive an artificial tail!

BABY dolphin that lost its tail after getting tangled in fishing nets is to get an artificial one.
The three-month-old mammal also had serious injuries to her mouth, tongue and fins when fishermen found her off Cape Canaveral on Florida's east coast.

The tail wounds were so deep that the blood flow was cut off, killing the tissue. Days after she was rescued, her tail fell off.

Seven months later, plans are well advanced to give the dolphin, named Winter by rescuers, a complete prosthetic tail so she can learn to jump at the Clearwater marine aquarium.

Boss Dana Zucker said: "She'll only be able to wear it for short periods of time but it will mean she'll be able to learn how to jump like the other dolphins."

Winter, who was just 64lb when she was rescued, has now doubled in size.

Dana said: "It was touch and go for a while. We feared we were going to lose her.
"Now she's our star attraction."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Baby dolphin in need of new tail

Just 10 months ago, a bottlenose dolphin called Winter was rescued from a crab trap line.
Because of her entrapment, the dolphin lost her tail.

And she, along with the staff at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, are looking for donors to help her get a new one.

"We're not exactly sure how she got stuck in (the trap), but when she was found, she was all by herself. Her mother was not with her, and the line was stuck around her like a rubber band where it cuts off all your circulation. By the time she came to us, her whole tale was white and a lot of the tissue had died. We were left with a 2-month-old baby with absolutely no tail," said animal care director Diane Mitchell.

Nine months later, Winter has made a full recovery and is learning to swim and even play without the use of her tail.

"Instead of swimming up and down, she actually swims like a shark from side to side because that's where she gets the most momentum from," said Mitchell.

Unable to swim quickly or jump out of the water like other dolphins, doctors worry her unusual movement could cause back problems later on or even shorten her life.

So, scientists are looking for a way to build an artificial tail prosthesis -- like the one made for a Japanese dolphin named Fuji back in 2004.

"There have only been two others in the world to develop a prosthetic tale, and there is no other case like Winter because those other dolphins all had part of a tail," said Mitchell.

The artificial tail could cost up to $100,000 to make, and because she's just a baby, Winter would likely need three or four new ones made throughout her lifetime.

The aquarium is looking for donors to help pay the bill, creating a happy ending to an otherwise very sad tale.

Rescued dolphin is fine!

Marine experts believe a dolphin spotted in shallow Key West waters yesterday is OK.

The bottle-nosed dolphin was noticed near Key West International Airport yesterday afternoon. The Florida Keys Marine Mammal Rescue Team examined the dolphin and more than a dozen volunteers helped hoist it out of the water, unto a stretcher and into a U-Haul trailer.

Wildlife rescue official Sarah Nguyen says the adult male dolphin appears to be in good condition. She said there were no visible injuries, and he wasn't dehydrated.
Further tests are planned.

The Irrawaddy dolphin does not share Flipper's attitude!

Don't expect to get a photograph of yourself patting the Irrawaddy dolphin. This is not the ultra-friendly dolphin that you see on TV bow-riding (swimming next to the bow of a moving boat) or performing acrobatic stunts above water.

In fact, photographing the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) at the Santubong peninsula in Sarawak is a challenge even to a relatively experienced dolphin researcher. Marine biologist Louisa Ponnampalam finds them “elusive and uncooperative”.

Irrawaddy dolphins surfacing at the Santubong estuary in southwest Sarawak. – Pictures by WAYNE TARMANThe University of London student-researcher first learnt of the Sarawak Irrawaddy dolphin through a blog and decided to pay them a visit during her summer vacation back home in Malaysia. Her group was not disappointed. They encountered some 20 dolphins in different groups at the Salak estuary.

“Irrawaddy dolphins are certainly a difficult species to photograph as they seem to have unpredictable surfacing patterns. They are definitely less gregarious compared with spinner dolphins and are not the most spectacular cetacean species,” says Louisa, who is pursuing a doctorate in the ecology of small cetacean in Oman.

The tourism industry in Sarawak is currently abuzz with dolphin-watching tours. Located about 45km north of Kuching, the estuaries of Buntal, Santubong, Salak and Sibu rivers are quietly attracting scores of tourists.

“Last year, we recorded 1,008 tourists but this year we are handling between 40 and 50 guests a week and even up to 100 sometimes. It’s getting very popular,” reveals William Choo, director of operations of Kuching-based CPH Travel Agencies Sdn Bhd, a pioneer in the business.

When Choo developed the unique tour in 1998, few in Sarawak were aware of the dolphins on the state’s coast.

“After two years, we began selling the package overseas through our agents and demand gradually grew and it became a hit among the Brits, Swedes and Australians. It was only in 2003 that local tourists became interested,” says Choo, 63.

CPH conducts up to three cruises a day, using a 115 horsepower 28-footer fibreglass boat that carries 10 passengers.

Raised in Sedungus, an islet in the Santubong estuary, Choo learnt of the dolphins from angling trips with his grandfather. Creating the dolphin-watch tour is akin to going back to his roots. Inheriting the 40-year-old business – the company bears the initials of his father Choo Poh Hin – that specialises in nature and cultural tours, Choo recognised the potential of his childhood playground as an eco-tourism product.

He began by taking tourists to view mangrove forests, home to wildlife such as monkeys, leaf monkeys, crocodiles, fireflies, and the dolphins.

Choo says the Irrawaddy dolphin is a big draw for Westerners because of its endangered status and the fact that it is only found in the Indo-Pacific region (from eastern India to northern Australia), unlike the widely distributed spinner and bottlenose dolphins.

Nature tourism received a boost four years ago when 6,610ha of mangroves was turned into the Kuching Wetland National Park. Last November, the park was designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty that promotes wetlands conservation.

Responding to the growing popularity of dolphin-watching, the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) recently published a booklet Introducing the Irrawaddy Dolphins of Sarawak, Malaysia. Authored by travel consultants Wayne Tarman and Mike Reed, the booklet introduces the species, where it is found and it’s association with local fishing communities.

But there is growing concern over unscrupulous tour operators. “We have operators hiring inexperienced boatmen who would just barge into the middle of a pod of dolphins and chase them around the bay. They have no knowledge on how to approach the dolphins. They scare away the dolphins and there is always the danger of injuring the animals. We have spotted dolphins with severed dorsal fins,” laments Choo.

One of Choo’s workers, Jamadi Ghazali, can spot dolphins from afar, way before anyone else does. Once he sees the dolphins, he slows down his boat and cruises slowly towards the pod, keeping a discreet distance of at least 10m.

The former fisherman says the fishing community is familiar with the dolphins as the marine mammal tends to congregate around fishing boats in the bay where the fish are. Some have become so tame that they would take fish discarded by fishermen as the nets are hauled in.
It is understood that STB is planning a three-day course to address unregulated dolphin-watching tours.

The Irrawaddy dolphin is a totally protected species under the state Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998, which carries a penalty of a maximum fine of RM25,000 and a jail term of two years.

Sarawak Forestry Corporation senior manager (biodiversity conservation) Oswald Braken Tisen says: “We will work with STB to come out with a dolphin-watch etiquette and best practices as uncontrolled tourism activities might have an adverse impact on the animal.” He adds that some form of conservation tax may be considered to benefit the species in the long run.

He admits that there is now no conservation programme for marine mammals in Sarawak waters.
A 2001 joint survey by the then Sarawak Forest Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Division and Universiti Malaysia Sabah showed the Irrawaddy dolphin to be the most common cetacean in Sarawak.

Other dolphin species that inhabit the in-shore waters of Sarawak are the Risso’s dolphin, Fraser’s dolphin and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin. Bigger marine mammals such as Bryde’s whale, killer whale, pygmy sperm whale and sperm whale have also been documented.

The survey concluded that the rich cetacean composition and distribution requires a comprehensive conservation management programme. That may just happen over the next five years as the state has requested for research funding under the Ninth Malaysian Plan.

Dolphin not aggressive but seeking company desperately

Further to your article about a fierce bottlenose dolphin on the French coast, it is important to appreciate that this is an animal that has been habituated to human company and that he is actually trying to play and not to hurt anyone.

There are several similar solitary dolphins in Europe at this time that have become partly tamed by human contact - for example people swimming with them or feeding them - and this means that they lose their natural fear of people, start to seek human company and, unfortunately, often get themselves into serious trouble.

This seems to be a growing problem world-wide - perhaps because we are increasingly invading the dolphin's environment - and at the end of last year, WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, ran an international workshop of experts to review the issue.

What became clear was that these tamed solitary dolphins are often wounded and frequently killed by human activities, notably propeller strikes, and that each individual tends to present different problems.

We have been following the situation with the French dolphin, known as Jean Floch, closely and consulting with local experts. He is particularly fond of playing with boat oars. Indeed he sometimes swims away with them, which can be infuriating for boaters.

He is certainly unpopular with local fishermen. His aggressiveness is, however, being grossly exaggerated. He is not attacking anyone; he is just seeking social contact.

Nonetheless, there is clearly a problem and his robust activities focused in a small French bay, which have been welcomed by many, including the many tourists who flocked to see him, are presenting a difficult management issue.

There are already calls for him to be shot, despite the fact that bottlenose dolphins are now quite a rare and highly protected species in Europe, and we fear that someone may soon take the law into their own hands.

The main lesson here is that it is important not to tame animals like this, but to admire them from a distance, not close up.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Rescued dolphin is fine!

Marine experts believe a dolphin spotted in shallow Key West waters yesterday is O-K.
The bottle-nosed dolphin was noticed near Key West International Airport yesterday afternoon.

The Florida Keys Marine Mammal Rescue Team examined the dolphin and more than a dozen volunteers helped hoist it out of the water, unto a stretcher and into a U-Haul trailer.

Wildlife rescue official Sarah Nguyen says the adult male dolphin appears to be in good condition. She said there were no visible injuries and he wasn't dehydrated.
Further tests are planned.

Dolphin displays uncommon aggressive behaviour off the French coast

For several weeks, an enraged dolphin has been terrorising the French Atlantic coast, attacking boats and knocking fishermen into the drink, French media reported Wednesday. "He's like a mad dog," complained Hneri Le Lay, president of the association of fishermen and yachtsmen of the port of Brezellec, in Brittany. "He has caused at least 1,500 euros worth of damage in the past few weeks." The dolphin, who has been named Jean Floch, has destroyed rowboats, overturned open boats, flooded engines and twisted mooring lines.

Worse, two fishermen were knocked into the sea after the dolphin overturned their boat. "I don't want to see any widows or orphans," Le Lay warned. "This could end badly." Jean Floch has been a popular and familiar sight along the coast of Brittany since 2002. But experts say that he must have been excluded from his group recently to have turned so violent. According to Sami Hassani, of the Oceanapolis Department of Sea Mammals, "because of their dominant personalities and their sexual maturity, males could become dangerous."

In June, after several incidents involving Jean Floch and several bathers and pleasure boat sailors, police established a crisis cell with local politicians and scientists. The unit recommended to local mayors to ban swimming in areas where the dolphin was known to appear. However, the dolphin has become a popular tourist attraction, luring divers and swimmers despite the ban.

Le Lay has a solution to the problem. "We put mad animals to sleep," he said. Then, perhaps remembering that the dolphin is a protected species, he added: "I like dolphins, but this one should be removed or locked up very quickly." However, researchers will soon be trying a more humane solution, an acoustic repellant that will also be used on boats fishing for tuna.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"