Saturday, July 28, 2007

Another stranded dolphin dies!

An attempt to rescue a dolphin found on a Bolivar Peninsula beach came to naught Thursday.A male bottlenose, discovered around 8 a.m., died on the ferry while rescuers were trying to take it for treatment in Galveston.The dolphin, which appeared to be between 2 and 4 years old, was undergoing a necropsy Thursday at the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network on Avenue U.Until the examination is complete, a cause of death won’t be known.

But the dolphin appeared to be undernourished and it had a discharge from its blowhole, said Heidi Watts, operations coordinator for the stranding network.“It’s been sick for a very long time,” she said.Bottlenose dolphins can live into their late 40s.It’s not clear whether the premature death of the animal discovered Thursday is part of a larger pattern.

But two other dolphins have been found stranded alive on Texas beaches in the past week, one in Brazoria County and one on South Padre Island.It’s also not clear whether the recent strandings are related in any way to abnormally high numbers of dolphins washing up on area beaches earlier this year.In a three-and-a-half week period spanning February and March, 72 decomposed dolphins washed up on Galveston County shores.

A reason for those deaths hasn’t been determined, Watts said.

+++How To HelpIf you find a dolphin on the beach:

•Call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-800-9MAMMAL.

Don’t return the animal to the sea. Illness or injury has made it unable to swim.

•Keep pets away and let no more than two people stay near the animal until help arrives.

•Relieve pressure on its fins by digging holes under them. Relieve pressure on its lungs by digging a pit under the animal and filling it with water.

•Keep the animal cool and wet by splashing water on its skin, but avoid getting water in its blowhole.•Apply wet towels and provide shade but don’t cover fins or flippers.

•Apply sunscreen or zinc oxide, but not suntan oil. Dolphins’ skin can burn severely.

•If the animal is in the surf, support it upright and keep the blowhole out of the water.

•Be careful around the animal’s powerful tail and jaws.

To volunteer or donate to the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, call 409-740-4455.

Learning about dolphins during dolphin watching tours!

How often is someone there for you before they're a friend? How often can they renege on that support before they slip from status in your eyes?Human relationships are tremendously important to us. We rehash their pasts and ponder potential futures. The quality of our relationships dictates the very quality of our lives. We're a highly social species.But we're not the only ones.

Other intelligently elite species, such as sperm whales, elephants, primates and dolphins lead rich social lives. Their relationships too are essential and endlessly interesting. Bottlenose dolphin social life is impressively complicated. In some communities, bulls form first-order alliances, pairs or trios of bulls who work together to fight other alliances for dating females.

Alliances who work together form second-order alliances that out-compete single alliances. On and on it goes.If these maritime politics aren't slippery enough, they're also both intermittent and constant. Dolphins swim all the time, even snoozing on the run. They change social partners with dizzying irregularity; a dolphin of John's Pass can encounter 200 other dolphins. As with humans, whether at church or work, the fluidity of dolphin society provides relentless opportunity for alliances to form or wane, out of the view and knowledge of other alliances.

Each time bulls run into other bulls, they have to determine if and how their relationships have changed since the last time. Add the changing availability of females, and you've got maritime complexity of the first, second and maybe even third order. Dolphin politics heated up with the water this spring. Each observation of males is a puzzle piece. In sufficient numbers, they weave an increasingly coherent fabric of dolphin life among the sharks and snappers. Capt. John Heidemann and I set out one cool May morning dappled with high thin clouds. What would we learn today? We found a very sleepy trio, consisting of bulls Riptab and BB with female Key.

Key is a young adult, named as the key clue in the mystery of how a dolphin can heal with impossible speed.BB is a large reticent bull. His mangled dorsal fin suggests a past battle with a fierce and powerful dolphin. In any case, BB avoids conflict. Riptab and BB swim together frequently.Riptab got his name because the top of his dorsal fin forms a tab like the one you label on a file folder. Beneath it, the fin is torn as if a second dolphin grabbed the fin, gave it a good hard yank and ripped the skin like you tear old towels into rags.

He's a randy Riptab, unusually keen on sex, even for a bottlenose bull. Snickering over why this particular trio might be drowsy this gentle morn, we headed towards dolphins in the distance.A second trio poked around for breakfast. A huge dark frigate (bird) dashed repeatedly at DD2, trying to steal his fish. DD2 launched a successful counter-attack. Bird dispersed to the skies, dolphin to the depths.N and P came over. N is a bull. He and bull DD2 swim together often. P is an adult female. She seems to have much dominance; other dolphins rarely give her grief.On the other hand, N's competitive nature could give Riptab plenty of grief. As the sleepy trio approached the feeding trio, the seas became a tinderbox of possibilities.

In the slow motion of sea time, dolphins joined directly, mingled and moved to a shallow sea grass meadow. Dolphins here socialize in the shallows. The fuse was lit. But it was a long one.Key was key today. Dolphin sex starts with the clustering of bodies. A wad emerges and submerges, clues about who helps whom vanishing with them. A dolphin lies on its side, an invitation from either male or female. The water erupts.A second pushes the recliner from underneath. A third braces it. Another body heaves between, separating mating dolphins.

Lunges laced with suspected subsurface skirmishes grew evermore intense. No one was giving up.While dolphins certainly fight underwater, we only see what happens at the surface. Conflict didn't surface at first. It bobbed intermittently. Still, it was full body contact. Initially, N and DD2 worked together, leaving Riptab to invite (lie on the surface) and separate as he could. BB was no help, swimming peripherally like P. On his own, Riptab characteristically stayed the course. Key's female role was curious. She initially behaved like the males: lying, lunging, bracing, separating. One tail whipped, a sign of serious conflict, then another. Key had had enough.

She signaled her waning interest by going airborne, leaping free of serious shoving. Then she did the dolphin 50-yard dash, followed by N and Riptab. DD2 dropped out.The final trio took the scene to the next bay. Slowly, the action waned. But neither bull gave up. So it's hard to say who won this round.

Dolphin dies in captivity!

Brought to Chicago two years ago in hopes that he would impregnate the Shedd Aquarium's four female Pacific white-sided dolphins, an aging but proven dolphin sire named Jump died Monday in an off-view medical pool.Jump was at least 30 years old—at the high end of known life expectancy for white-sided dolphins— and probably succumbed to age-related ailments, Shedd officials said.He had been in periodic poor health for the last year.

"Sunday night, our trainers noticed he had a higher-than-normal rate of respiration," said Ken Ramirez, chief trainer at the aquarium. "I came in and spent the night with him and several other staff."

The dolphin showed signs of being in pain, so veterinarians gave him analgesics, he said."About 3 a.m. I asked him [Jump] to come to the side of the pool so we could do an ultrasound and take some blood samples, which he quite willingly did," he said. "The vet thought something wasn't quite right in the ultrasound pictures, but we couldn't tell what it was.

He just got weaker and died about 10:45 a.m."Preliminary results from a necropsy, or animal autopsy, seemed to support age-related failure of internal organs, Ramirez said, "though no clear picture emerged of what pushed him over the edge." More detailed results from tissue samples should be available in about three weeks.Jump had been one of the more successful sires in the early attempts to establish a captive breeding program for Pacific white-sided dolphins. He spent much of his life at Sea World in San Antonio, where he was responsible for "most" of that facility's six or seven successful dolphin births.

Despite his advancing age when he came to Chicago in 2005, Jump was still considered a viable sire. Scientists at the Shedd hoped he would mate successfully with the aquarium's four females, but they also wanted to do studies on Jump's semen in connection with the Shedd's artificial-insemination experiments. Jump mated frequently with the females during his first year at the Shedd, but no pregnancies resulted.In his last year, Jump's vigor began to wane, said Ramirez, and the dolphin showed diminished interest in the females as he began to suffer a series of illnesses.

"Over the last year he had a series of low-grade infections," Ramirez said, "but he always seemed to bounce back with antibiotics. They were all small illnesses, things you equate with geriatric issues you see in people. A slight cold for a healthy person can become something serious for somebody of advanced age."Keeping close tabs on Jump's health in his last year offered valuable experience in dealing with geriatric marine mammals, said Ramirez.Only 19 Pacific white-sided dolphins live in four North American facilities.

Eight are fairly recent captive-born animals, but the rest are older wild-caught animals, including the Shedd's four females, all in their 20s.Because a captive population of that size can't sustain itself and grow, the four institutions keeping the dolphins are considering several options to make the population more viable. They could collect more animals from the wild but seem intent for the time being to try other options, either bringing in animals from foreign collections or collecting semen from overseas animals for artificial insemination.

The Shedd has never had a successful dolphin birth. It has had four adults die since it first brought them here in the early 1990s. Its only two pregnancies, both the result of artificial insemination, failed. One calf was stillborn; the other died a few days after birth.Ramirez said Jump last performed in the Shedd's public programs a week and a half ago. Being older, the dolphin "didn't have an interest in doing lots of jumps and fast swimming behaviors," Ramirez said.

"He liked to participate in the shows . . . but he stayed on the perimeter instead of doing the high-energy things.""Jump's reason for coming here was for semen testing and our breeding program," said Ramirez. "We learned a lot about the transition to old age in his species from him and how to deal with aging animals. It has been the best part of having him with us for the two years that he was here."

Monday, July 23, 2007

New interactive facility for dolphins!

Today Miami Seaquarium opened its new dolphin interaction facility called Dolphin Harbor. The new facility, home to ten Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins and the park’s dolphin interaction programs, features a 12,000 square foot, 700,000 gallon dolphin pool surrounded by an 8,000 square foot facility that includes a reception area, education seminar room, changing facilities and rest rooms.

“The new facility gives Miami Seaquarium the opportunity to expand its highly successful Swim with Our Dolphins program which has been a favorite among park guests since 1998,” commented Andrew Hertz, General Manager at Miami Seaquarium. “As trends in the marine park industry move toward allowing guests to get closer with the animals, Dolphin Harbor provides more of our guests the opportunity to interact with our dolphins.”

At Dolphin Harbor guests who are at least 52 inches tall may participate in the Swim with our Dolphins program, a two-hour experience, which includes feeding, touching and learning about these magnificent animals plus enjoying “rides” with the dolphins across the pool.

Plus, coming September 1, 2007, participants who are less than 52 inches or those who do not want to participate in the swim program may wade out into the pool and meet the dolphins in the Dolphin Encounter program. The two-hour program will feature an educational seminar and the chance to feed and touch a dolphin as well as learn about dolphin training techniques.

The cost of the Swim with Our Dolphins program is $189 plus tax per person. The Dolphin Encounter Program costs $139 plus tax per person. Guests must be at least five years of age and an adult must accompany those under 18 years of age. Participants are allowed spectator guests at $40 per adult and $35 per child. The dolphin interaction programs are not allowed for expectant mothers. Program fees include same day admission to the park. For more information or to register please call (305) 365-2501.

Miami Seaquarium, South Florida's most popular tourist attraction, is a family-oriented marine-life park open to the public 365 days a year. The park provides visitors with a greater understanding and appreciation for marine life through shows, presentations and exhibits. More information on Miami Seaquarium is available at

Dolphin's attackers plead not guilty!

The two men accused of harassing a wild dolphin off the Kent coast have pleaded not guilty at Shepway Magistrates Court. Michael Jukes,26, of Castle Hill Avenue,Folkestone and Daniel Buck,25, of Church Road,Folkestone are charged with causing Dave the tame Dolphin which lives off Sandgate 'alarm and distress' on June 9. Magistrates adjourned the case until September 19 to allow experts to examine video evidence taken at the time.

Bottlenose dolphin rescued in Long Island

A bottle-nosed dolphin that swam up a series of inlets from the Great South Bay was rescued from a shallow canal Saturday, but will need months of rehabilitation before it can be returned to the ocean, marine preservation officials said. The sleek, black mammal was discovered hovering near a wooden bulkhead in the brackish waters of the Seabreeze Canal by residents who alerted authorities.

"He did seem to be in distress," said Bob O'Brien a retired Nassau County police officer who lives on the canal. "He just kept surfacing for air. He was taking great big breaths and sticking up his nose out of the water." The dolphin, which weighed 471 pounds and was nearly 9 feet long, was in critical condition, said Rob DiGiovanni, executive director of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation. Blood samples were taken and several tests were performed on the dolphin, but biologists will not know what ails it for a few weeks, DiGiovanni said.

The dolphin was being held at the Atlantis Marine World, which gives space to the Riverhead Foundation. Several species of dolphins are common in the ocean waters south of Long Island, but they rarely venture into the Great South Bay and are almost never seen in the series of channels and inlets that go through South Shore communities, DiGiovanni said.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Dolphin killers caught on tape!

A crew of Brazilian fishermen was captured on video killing 83 dolphins and joking about their illegal haul, Brazil's Ibama environmental protection agency said Tuesday.

The video obtained by an Ibama researcher and broadcast by Globo TV showed the fishermen netting the dolphins, which suffocated because they could not surface to breathe.

The dead dolphins were then hauled from the sea and piled on the boat's deck. Fishermen on board are seen laughing after someone said, "Everyone's going to jail after this filming!"

International dolphin advocates who saw the video said they were appalled and Ibama announced it will try to impose fishing restrictions along parts of Brazil's coast where dolphins are common.
The researcher had been contracted by the agency to monitor catches of other fish in the area where the dolphin kill took place off the coast of Amapa state, near where the Amazon River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

No one has been charged or fined because authorities were still trying to identify the fishermen on video, Ibama said in a statement.

The agency said the video was not available to be copied by other media because it was being transported to Brasilia for the investigation.

After they are identified, "they will suffer the appropriate sanctions," Ibama said.

It was not immediately clear whether the video of the dolphins being killed was made by the researcher or a crew member.

Fishermen who illegally snag dolphins usually sell the meat to other boats to use as bait to catch sharks, Globo TV said.

The images came as a surprise to groups working to protect dolphins around the world.

"Brazil has strict laws to protect whales and dolphins in their waters, and they are very clearly being abused," said Claire Bass, program manager for marine mammals with the London-based World Society for the Protection of Animals. "Using nets to kill these extremely sociable and intelligent animals by drowning them is completely diabolical."

Dolphins are also caught off the coast of Africa for shark bait, she said.

Emma Butler, spokeswoman at Britain's Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said she thought the Latin America practice of killing dolphins to use as bait had been "consigned to history."

"It is very regrettable that it appears this is not the case," she said.

Killing dolphins is punishable by up to 1 1/2 years in prison in Brazil. Ibama is working to ban fishing in all areas along Brazil's coast where dolphins flock, the statement said.

But in the Amazon city of Belem, river dolphin jaws are sold in an open-air market. The eyes are also sold as fetishes to men who believe they have magical powers attract riches and women, and dolphins penises are ground into a powder thought to make men more virile.

River dolphins are sometimes harpooned in the Amazon and used as bait, Bass said.

Fishermen who kill the river dolphins try to wound them so they can be tied to trees while still alive.
"Then they come and kill them for the bait as and when they need it," Bass said.

Washed up dolphin dies following rescue

The mammal was found washed up on the beach between Retamar and Torregarcía in Almería CityA dolphin who was found washed up on an Almería beach on Monday afternoon has died in the Recovery Centre for Threatened Marine Species in Málaga.

The 20minutos website says the 1.6 metre adult striped dolphin was found by members of the public on the beach between Retamar and Torregarcía.

They said he had parasites on one fin and in his blowhole, was bleeding from a number of wounds and was suffering from exhaustion.He was treated by specialist personnel on the beach and then immediately transferred to Málaga. He died on Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after he was found.

Dolphin watch and more

Of the millions of people who visit Oahu each year, a relative few ever venture to Oahu's Leeward Coast. There are two major reasons to make it a part of your visit to Oahu. First, the Leeward Coast is one of the most beautiful areas of Hawaii.

The second major reason for driving over to the Leeward Coast is the subject of this photo essay, Wild Side Specialty Tours. By choosing Wild Side, you'll have the opportunity to get an ocean view of the majestic coastline and see many of the numerous species of marine life that make the waters between Oahu and Kauai their home.

Delaware plans dolphin count!

Volunteers for the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute in Lewes will spread out along the state's coast to take the census.

Director Suzanne Thurman says more than 30 species of marine mammals and sea turtles come by the coast each year.

The count begins Saturday at 9 a.m. and ends at 11 a.m.

Baby dolphin's death is being investigated!

A dead baby dolphin believed to be of the Pygmy Killer species was found Thursday morning at the shoreline of Barangay Tinago, in Dumaguete City.

It was brought to the Silliman University Marine Laboratory for examination and to determine the cause of death. Leslie Callanta, a biology student of Silliman, said the dolphin had probably been sick because of its physical appearance.

Callanta and two Indonesian students taking their Doctorate degrees in Marine Biology at Silliman, collected sample tissues from the dead dolphin for examination.

Callanta, however, said Silliman Marine Laboratory Marine geologist Dr. Janet Estacion is the one authorized to determine the cause of the death of the dolphin.

After the examination, the dolphin will be buried in the pond and after two months, its skeleton will be collected for research and marine bone collection.

Meanwhile, Dr. Hilconida Calumpong, the Head of SUML, expressed alarm over the increasing number of dolphins and whales stranded in Oriental Negros.

Based on records, 11 dolphin and whale strandings have been recorded from July last year, to date. Earlier this year, two dolphins were reported butchered in Amlan, reports reaching her office also said.

Calumpong said this year has recorded the most number of dolphin stranding in the province in her 30 years of experience.

She said there are four possible causes of dolphin stranding - the species are accidentally caught in fishing nets; increase in fishing activities along the Tañon Strait; deterioration of the sea; and the seismic survey which causes sound disturbance on the marine mammal.

Calumpong challenged the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to increase its vigilance and monitoring in the deep and open seas.

Captain gains popularity due to pink dolphin sightings

Capt. Erik Rue of Calcasieu Charter Service, south of Lake Charles, La., has become a celebrity, not because of a fish he caught rather one he has no intention of catching.Rue has photographs of a pink dolphin.Rue and his charter guests spotted the young dolphin on a charter trip on June 24.

Since then he has been bombarded with requests from the media to talk about it. ESPN, Fox News and others are clamoring to hear more about the dolphin after he posted photographs of the pink dolphin on his Web site.In a telephone interview last week, Rue said he has seen the extraordinary dolphin again."He is in a channel," said Rue. "Our dolphins tend to stay (in our estuary)."Rue said the area in which the dolphin has been spotted is rich in food sources for dolphins and the same ones tend to inhabit the area.

In the commentary on his Web site, Rue said, "It appears to be an uncanny freak of nature, an albino dolphin, with reddish eyes and glossy pink skin. It is small in comparison to the others it is traveling with and appears to be a youngster traveling with mama."Rue has posted a series of photos at his Web site and said he hopes to have video of the mammal soon. You can see all the photos at

Can dolphin therapy help child speak?

A Swansea couple are hoping the chance to swim with dolphins will give their seven- year-old daughter the gift of speech. Georgia Jones suffered respiratory arrest as a baby, and has since suffered learning difficulties and severe communication problems.Now the youngster's mum Claire, aged 31, has launched an appeal to raise enough money to take her daughter to swim with dolphins at Key Largo, Florida.

She hopes the therapy Georgia would receive from the trip could be the key to getting her talking at last."I have this feeling that if we take her, she won't string sentences together but she will start to say words," she said."This is the key thing for her."Claire, a student nurse, added: "At the end of the day it's not a holiday, it's a therapeutic programme for Georgia."The seven-year-old requires 24-hour care and supervision, and has undergone traditional therapy without success.So-called dolphin therapy has had some notable successes in the past.

For example, in 1998 eight-year-old Nikki Brice, from Somerset, who suffered brain damage at birth, reportedly spoke for the first time after swimming with dolphins in Florida.Georgia's family hope to raise between £4,000 and £5,000 to pay for the potentially life-changing trip, possibly in September.Efforts will kick off with a sponsored walk from County Hall to Mumbles on Saturday, July 28, at 2pm.Georgia's father Barry, aged 33, of Roger Street, Treboeth, said: "Georgia has no communication skills at all. Because of that, it's very difficult to assess her."

His wife continued: "She's seven years old and is unaware of anything, has no understanding, and is still in nappies."She's still in a baby situation. She mumbles, but she's just a danger to herself."She said that when Georgia suffered the respiratory arrest it was devastating."You see two sides of the child."She was three months when this respiratory arrest happened and you see a child smiling and going through the stages, and the next thing, she doesn't even know who you are," she said.

She said she knew something was not right with her daughter's development, having had her brother Joshua, now aged 10, previously.Members of Joshua's football team, Treboeth United under-10s, will be taking part in the walk, along with friends and family.Anyone wanting to help with the appeal can make cheques payable to: Georgia Jones Fund, c/o HSBC Bank, Portland Street, Swansea.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dead baby dolphin found on the shore!

A baby dolphin was found dead along the shoreline at the coastal village of Tinago, Dumaguete City on Thursday morning.The dolphin is believed to be a pygmy killer whale (feresa attenuata), a specie of dolphins usually found in tropical waters.The carcass of the baby dolphin was brought to the Silliman University Marine Laboratory here for examination to determine the cause of its death.According to Leslie Callanta, a Masters in Biology student of Silliman University, the baby cetacean could have died of some illness as based on its appearance.

Callanta and two Indonesian students taking their doctorate’s degree in Marine Biology also at Silliman University have collected sample tissue from the dead dolphin for examination.After examination, the SUML will process the skeleton and bones of the dolphin to be included in the laboratory’s collection for future research.

Meanwhile, Dr. Hilconida Calumpong, director of the SU marine laboratory, has expressed alarm over the increasing number of dolphin and whale strandings in Negros Oriental.Records show 11 dolphin and whale strandings from July 2006 to July 2007.Reports reaching SUML also said at least two dolphins were allegedly butchered for its meat in Amlan town, about half an hour’s drive north of here.

Calumpong said the past year has recorded the most number of dolphin strandings in the province in her 30 years as a marine biologist.She said there are many possible causes of dolphin strandings such as being accidentally caught in fishing nets, increased fishing activity along the Tañon Strait between Negros Oriental and Cebu, and a seismic survey in the Strait which causes sound disturbance for marine mammals.

The Tañon Strait is a rich natural habitat for a wide variety of marine species and is famed for the dolphin and whale-watching tours of Bais City in Negros Oriental.

Common dolphins not are rare specie in the North Sea...anymore!

THE common dolphin - paradoxically once one of the rarest marine mammals seen in the North Sea - has been spotted this year in unprecedented numbers, it was revealed yesterday.
Common dolphins - a familiar sight in the warm waters of the Mediterranean - have been irregular visitors to the colder waters off Scotland's east coast for at least 30 years.

But this year massive pods of the cetaceans - up to 300 strong - have been monitored by scientists in the Moray Firth which is already home to large resident populations of bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises.

And the influx of the common dolphin is believed to be a direct result of rising temperatures which have already driven cod stocks further north from their traditional spawning grounds.

Average temperatures in the North Sea have risen by 1C over the past 25 years. And earlier this year a team of researchers revealed that harbour porpoises were starving to death in the Scottish waters due to rising water temperatures which had resulted in a dramatic decline in sandeels - a major part of their staple diet.

The first inkling of an unprecedented arrival of common dolphins into Scottish waters came last month, just days before the start of National Whale and Dolphin Watch week, when marine biologists reported "unusual sightings" of them off northern Britain.

A group of between 60-100 common dolphins were seen by a ferry crew north of Fair Isle. Last week, during the watch week itself, over 200 common dolphins were seen off Freswick in Caithness.

And yesterday the Gardenstown-based Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit revealed a pod of 300 common dolphins had been spotted in the southern trench of the Moray Firth, it's deepest stretch.

Kevin Robinson, the director the cetacean unit, said: "The arrival of common dolphins to the Moray Firth confirms that sea temperatures are rising.

"In 2003, we found a stranded common dolphin along the Aberdeenshire coastline, but this is the first time we have encountered these animals at sea."

Dr Peter Evans, the research director of the Sea Watch Foundation, explained: "This is probably related to the continued strong flow of the North Atlantic current which is likely to have brought warmer water species of fish like anchovy and pilchard - typical prey of common dolphins - into more northern waters.

"But there is no evidence the common dolphin is going to make the Moray Firth its home.
"It is not going to drive away bottlenose or harbour porpoises as they feed on different prey."

Swimming with trained dolphins, a memorable opportunity!

WHEN the Atlantic bottle-nose dolphin swam up to me in the sheltered lagoon, allowed me to hold on to his dorsal fin and rapidly towed me back to shore in seconds before kissing me on the cheek and waving goodbye, it was a defining moment of my holiday in Florida.

I had got up-close, hugged, rubbed and swam with a dolphin. And not just any dolphin. Celebrity actor dolphin Capricorn who fought Jaws - and won.

Swimming with dolphins has always been a dream of mine. But as I'm scared of deep water, fish and the sea, I assumed it was going to remain just that - a dream. But at Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive family adventure destination in Orlando, it became a reality. And more than lived up to expectations.

Rocky lagoons, lush landscaping, coral reefs, tropical rivers, waterfalls, a resort-style pool and gleaming pristine beaches await at Discovery Cove, giving guests the opportunity to swim and interact with dolphins, rays and thousands of fascinating sea animals.

And while it may be a man-made park, it looks like paradise - especially when exclusivity is key, and the park only admits 1000 guests, ensuring no crowds.

So in the dolphin lagoon, I lived my dream, while others lived theirs, swimming in the coral reef with colourful schools of tropical fish, snorkelling within inches of barracudas and sharks, housed behind clear acrylic partitions, and playing with hundreds of rays

And if that wasn't enough to keep guests entertained, there was free-flight aviary, tropical river and unlimited complimentary drinks and meals.

Ever since I'd been to Florida as a little girl, I'd always assumed Orlando equalled Disney World. But returning, some 20 years later and no longer a fan of Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Tea-cup rides, I was pleasantly surprised that Orlando offered so much more, and was also a haven for us big kids too.

After shopping sessions in Mall at Millenia and Florida Mall to make the most of the exchange rate, the marine adventure park Sea World was calling - right across the road from our hotel, the plush (and massive) four-star Renaissance Orlando Resort. And, like its sister park Discovery Cove just across the road, it was amazing.

You could spend all week at this park, boasting over 200 acres of shows, (scary) state-of-the-art rides and animal encounters.

We fed stingrays; we screamed our way round rollercoaster rides Kraken and Journey To Atlantis; we ventured into the Pacific Point Preserve to marvel at sea lions and harbour seals; and said hello to Shamu, the killer whale.

We ate in Sharks Underwater Grill which immersed us in a fascinating underwater world where sharks of all shapes and sizes swam by, watched tonnes of theatrical shows and took even more educational tours.

And to round the day off we went to the Brewmaster's Club, where we sampled a portfolio of American beers, from lagers all the way through to full-bodied stouts.

With each sampling, a beer expert explained the ingredients, historic brewing processes, food pairings and gave tips on bringing out the full flavour of Anheuser-Busch beverages.

In America, everything is bigger and often better, and so it was all-too-tempting to spend time lazing by the hotel's sleek outdoor pool, enjoying a lazy brunch in one of their many sumptuous restaurants or snoozing in the spacious bedrooms. But we set the alarm and travelled an hour in the car to Tampa Bay to the renowned Busch Gardens, another family adventure park that entertains not just the kids.

The 65-acre Serengeti Plains habitat at Busch Gardens incorporates both animal attractions and adrenaline-fuelled rides, and this place is seriously impressive.

After walking round the authentic Myombe Reserve, the rainforest habitat of gorillas and chimpanzees we took a safari ride in an open-sided jeep tour, led by a guide who talked about the wildlife and allowed us to hand-feed giraffes and antelopes - a surreal experience.

It is the country's biggest zoo, boasting 2700 animals and it is almost impossible to see them all in just one day. We got up close with hippos, hyenas, meerkats, vultures, a Nile crocodile, baboons and more, in what can only be described as an intense wildlife tour where you walk around at your leisure, and experience hundreds of different animals. And then there are the rides.

SheiKra? Well, let's just say it's not for the faint-hearted. As the tallest dive coaster in the world, SheiKra features a 90-degree drop from 200 feet. Then there's Gwazi - a mammoth double wooden roller-coaster where trains pass within feet of each other at crossing speeds of 100mph.

Montu boasts a petrifying inverted diving loop at 60mph, while Kumba sends riders through a 135 foot drop, a full three seconds of weightlessness, and is one of the world's largest vertical loops.
There are affordable restaurants galore to cater for all tastes and, after a quick pit-stop to refuel, we visited the Moroccan Palace to see KaTonga, Musical Tales from Africa, a half-hour musical celebration of animal folklore of Broadway calibre.

No lying on the beach with a cocktail or two, reading novels and relaxing here. My adventure parks break far surpassed that. For I had serious fun, became a kid again, experienced wildlife in a whole new way and never once longed for a sun lounger and a Pina Colada.

So now, as I flick through my photo album, I dream of going back to Orlando to do some of the many things we didn't have time to do . . . and do all the things we did again.

SeaWorld will be launching its Aquatica water park early next year, which will blend up-close animal experiences with high-speed thrill rides, sandy beaches, crystal-blue waters and towering rock formations - and I, for one, will be there.

Travel facts

Seven nights at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at Seaworld with Virgin Holidays costs from £669 per adult and £199 per child, for departures between November and December, 2007. Prices are based on two adults sharing a room and include Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick to Orlando International.

Virgin Atlantic offer connecting flights from Edinburgh for as little as £10.

A one-day Busch Gardens/ SeaWorld ticket starts from £34 for adults and £28 for children. Virgin Holidays offer a two-park ticket which allows up to 14-days consecutive admission to both parks from £55 per adult and £50 per child. Discovery Cove is all-inclusive and starts at £145 per person, including dolphin interaction. Or from £165 per person get entry to all three parks for up to 14 consecutive days.

To book call 0870-220 2468 or visit

Death claimed washed up dolphin's life!

A dead dolphin two meters long and weighing about 40 kilograms was found on Kamala Beach yesterday.Kanjana Adulyankosol, a biologist at the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC), told the Gazette that the dolphin had been dead for about five days.

However, the dolphin’s sex and exact species could not be determined due to decomposition of the carcass, she added.The cause of death was also unknown.

The skeleton and some skin samples were collected for further research at the PMBC, K. Kanjana said.Two dolphins suffering from respiratory illness were rushed to the PMBC earlier this week after washing ashore in separate incidents – one at Karon Beach last Sunday and the second in Phang Nga’s Tai Muang District on Monday.

The dolphin found at Tai Muang died on Tuesday. The cause of death has yet to be determined.The dolphin found at Karon Beach remains sick and is being treated by specialists at the PMBC.

Is swimming with dolphins into the wild a good idea?

As thousands of tourists prepare to dive in and swim with dolphins this summer, animals experts are appealing to them to ask themselves one question: does the dolphin want to swim with you?
Frolicking with dolphins -- in the wild and in captivity -- has become increasingly popular, with a sharp rise in the number of tour operators cashing in on the fascination with the intelligent aquatic mammal that always seems to be smiling.

Harassing wild dolphins or other marine mammals is illegal under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act but the wild dolphin adventure business is booming in other countries eager to lure tourist dollars in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Trevor Spradlin, a marine biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said there are no estimates for how many wild dolphin adventure operators there are in the United States or internationally.

But he said the fad has skyrocketed since the late 1980s when the first commercial swim with dolphin programs appeared in the Florida Keys.

"Around the same time that captive (swim with dolphin) programs were developing, the ones in the wild were developing in the wild, too ... it became a trend," Spradlin said.

These programs have come under heavy criticism from animal rights activists who claim "swim with dolphin" attractions in the wild are cruel and even harmful. Well-meaning swimmers can drive dolphins out of their feeding and resting areas.

"I totally understand why people want to be close to them, but we're basically loving them to death," said Naomi Rose, a dolphin biologist from the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

The U.S.-based Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums suggests swimming with captive dolphins at marine and theme parks as a legal alternative to wild dolphin encounters.
But animal advocates say captive dolphin encounters can be stressful for dolphins and their "smiles" can be deceptive.

"People need to literally go beneath a dolphin's smile because dolphins will smile even if they are sick, dying, or dead," said Dr. Toni Frohoff, a marine biologist who has specialized in dolphin research and communication.

Marine park operators counter that it is impossible to prove dolphins are under any more stress when meeting people and that encounters with captive dolphins educate the public about marine mammals in a safe environment.

"The privilege of seeing one of these animals engenders a kind of respect that might not be there otherwise," said Fred Jacobs, a spokesman for Busch Entertainment Corp., the company that runs the SeaWorld parks in the United States.

There are benefits to bringing people and animals together in the right environment, Spradlin said.
"Wildlife viewing is a very important conservation tool, but there's a fine line between observation and interaction," he said.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Pink dolphin spotted in Louisiana lake

A charter-boat captain from Lake Charles, La., photographed a rare pink dolphin a couple of weeks ago in Calcasieu Lake, an estuary just north of the Gulf of Mexico in southwestern Louisiana.

According to Calcasieu Charter Service's Web site, Capt. Erik Rue was on the lake June 24 with fishing customers when five dolphins came into view — four normal-looking gray ones, and a bright pink one that appeared to be an adolescent.

"It appears to be an uncanny freak of nature, an
albino dolphin, with reddish eyes and glossy pink skin," the Web site reads. "It is small in comparison to the others it is traveling with and appears to be a youngster traveling with mama."

There is a species of pink dolphin that lives in the Amazon River in South America, but this one appears to be a more common
bottlenose dolphin.

Ganges dolphins are fighting against extinction

When the Goddess Ganga, according to Hindu mythology, came down to Earth from the skies, the dolphin was amongst the creatures that heralded the descent of the holy river.

Today, the Ganga river dolphin, which was one of the world's first protected species, given special status under the reign of Emperor Ashoka, is crying for its existence.

The Ganga river dolphin is an extremely valuable species for monitoring the aquatic environment. It acts as an indicator of health for the ecosystem of the river system. Being at the top of the food chain, its presence in adequate numbers signifies a rich biodiversity within the river system.
But the IUCN's (World Conservation Union) red list of threatened animals has recently changed the status of this species from vulnerable to endangered.

Concerned over this alarming phenomenon, WWF India is organising a riverboat rally, as part of their "Save the River Dolphin" campaign, from May 7-8 on the Ganga river.

The motorboat rally will start at 9 am from Garhmukteshwar (Ghaziabad district) to Narora (Bulandsahar district). Shweta Nanda, the chief guest, will be flagging off the rally.

The event has already garnered tremendous support and participation from senior environmentalists, scientists, social activists, students of over 40 schools, colleges and universities, army officials, government officials and local communities. As a run up to the campaign, several activities and events for school children have been organised for the past few months.

This boat rally is an effort of WWF-India's Dolphin Conservation Programme to create awareness for conserving this endangered species. These dolphins, which once ranged throughout the Ganga and Brahmaputra river systems, are now dwindling in numbers. Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica) is one of the only four freshwater dolphins in the world.

Dr Parikshit Gautam, Director-Fresh Water & Wetlands Programme, WWF-India says "River dolphins are the 'watchdogs' of the water. The high level of toxic pollutants accumulating in their bodies is a strong indicator of poor water quality and is problem affecting both dolphins and the people dependent on these rivers. Clean water is not only vital for the survival of the river dolphin, but also for the quality of life for millions of the world's poor."

Commenting on the decrease of the Ganges river dolphin, Dr Sandeep Behera, coordinator freshwater secies, WWF-India, says, "Since the turn of the 20th century, the rate, at which the number of dolphins is decreasing, is quite alarming and unfortunate."

No wonder, the population of these dolphins is only 1500-1800 from 4000-5000 in the 1980's (in its entire distribution range), as per WWF India's Status Survey, which adds, "fragmentation of its habitat by barrages and dams, lack of awareness and education of the river's stakeholders, pollution of large stretches in the rivers and killing (for oil and its blubber) are some of the contributing reasons towards its decrease."

Beached Striped dolphin and Spinner dolphins' chances of recovery are slim

Two gravely ill dolphins are being treated at the Phuket Marine Biological Center (PMBC) after washing ashore in separate incidents – the first at Karon Beach yesterday and the second in Phang Nga’s Tai Muang District this morning.PMBC biologist Kongkiat Kittiwattawong told the Gazette that the first, a 40-kilogram female spinner dolphin (S. longirostris), washed ashore at Karon Beach about 7 am yesterday.

The spinner, 1.6 meters long and about five years old, was too weak to swim back out into the heavy surf and showed symptoms of a severe lung infection, but otherwise appeared healthy.Officers at the Kata Fire Station had tried unsuccessfully to push the animal back out to sea through the heavy surf at Karon Beach, and then took the animal by pickup truck to a section of Kata Beach with smaller waves, but the dolphin was too weak too swim away.

The second dolphin, a 50-kilogram female striped dolphin (S. coeruleoalba), was taken to the PMBC this morning. It also showed signs of respiratory infection but was also covered in lesions.The dolphins are being treated in separate tanks.K. Kongkiat rated the chances of recovery for both animals as very slim.

Blood samples have been taken, but it is still too early to determine whether the two animals were suffering from the same type of infection, though he said that was unlikely given that they were of different species.When weak from illness, dolphins tend to seek out calm water and this sometimes leads to them being beached, he said.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bulgaria welcomes new baby dolphin born in captivity

The dolphins centre in the Bulgarian seaside town of Varna grew up with one more member on Thursday night a baby dolphin was born.

This is the first baby born in the centre in the last three years, trainer Yulian Vassilev said. It is dolphin Dolly's third child. The baby dolphin is 120 centimetres long and weights 8 kilos.

Cause of sudden dolphin's death is yet to be determined

Zoo veterinarians are trying to figure out what caused the sudden death of a dolphin at the Indianapolis Zoo.

The dolphin named Phoenix was one of the first group of dolphins to arrive at the new Indianapolis Zoo when it opened in 1988. Her unexpected death has saddened the staff and the other dolphins.
But the show must go on and it did Monday at the Marsh Dolphin Theater even without one of their stars.

"They definitely know something's missing. They do. She made a lot of different sounds, vocalizations and typically they have a signature whistle. Right now that's lacking," said Jodie Baker, Curator of Marine Mammals at the Indianapolis Zoo.

During her last television appearance with 24-Hour News 8's Dick Wolfsie in May, Phoenix was showing off for the camera.

"She was a character, she had her own personality, very interesting in appearance, very large eyes. She was always very curious, enjoyed playing. She was a lot of fun," Baker said.

The trainers said Phoenix had been acting completely fine. She even performed in an earlier show, but it was at a later performance where the other dolphins started acting a little strange and that's when they found her in the bottom of the performance pool.

"We had just completed a quarterly physical exam in May and appeared healthy at that time," senior zoo veterinarian Dr. Jeff Proudfoot said.

Preliminary findings show wet, congested lungs but nothing else out of the ordinary. Samples have been sent out to pathologists to solve the mystery.

Trainers believe Phoenix was about 23 or 24 years old. The average life span of a dolphin in captivity is 24 years.

Veterinarians say they've never experienced an unexpected death of a dolphin since the exhibit opened in 1988.

Dolphin was stranded for eleven days!

Brought in by the high tide, a dolphin is stuck in the south end of Turnbull Bay in New Smyrna Beach.

Monday is day 11 since the dolphin's been trapped, WESH 2 News reported.

Biologists said they want the dolphin back in deep water like the ocean or the Intercoastal Waterway where there is plenty of food because she really seems to be struggling now.

She's been circling Turnbull Bay, unable to escape because the water is so shallow.

The dolphin is about 6 to 6.5 feet long -- a full-grown female according to the Hubbs Sea World Research Institute.

The dolphin has been identified by her dorsal fin as a dolphin from the Indian River Lagoon often seen with a calf, but she got swept into the bay several miles away on a high tide.

Experts said she's losing weight because there's not enough food there and dolphins are social animals, which mean lack of company can stress her.

Biologists said they are planning a rescue for Tuesday. They said they can't take a chance she'll survive trapped in the bay much longer.

Experts said the bay won't be easy to maneuver either. A resident is going to let them use his pontoon boat and others will be in kayaks trying to net the trapped dolphin.

Neglect caused dolphin's death

Daphne, one of two dolphins that died at Florida’s Gulfarium earlier this year, perished because of an employee’s negligence, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported. The pan tropical spotted dolphin, housed at Gulfarium since 1998, was treated with the drug metronidazole for longer than it should have been, USDA inspector Michelle Williams reported. Daphne’s death was attributed to “toxicity to the metronidazole,” Williams reported.

An animal death from human negligence is considered a “serious” violation of the Animal Welfare Act. However, the USDA has not punished the Okaloosa Island marine animal park for Daphne’s death. The agency did order Gulfarium’s administrators to communicate better with Dr. Forrest Townsend, its veterinarian.

Gulfarium’s longtime curator, Greg Siebenaler, resigned June 8 after findings of a federal government’s investigation became public. The investigation, which centers on the possible “unlawful taking” of an animal from the wild, is continuing, said agency spokesman Jeff Radonski.

Risso dolphin has been transported to harbour

The Risso's dolphin - an unusual sight to close to shore - found its way out of Fishguard harbour after being spotted in a confused state on Monday.

Cliff Benson of Sea Trust said it had escaped as a ferry came into dock.

But he said the animal could struggle to survive if it was not reunited with its parents back in the sea.

Mr Benson said it would have been easy for the dolphin and its mother to have become separated in the stormy weather.

Sadly it's a possibility it could turn up on a beach either dead or stranded

Now that it had managed to find its way out of the harbour, he hoped the mother was somewhere nearby.

"If its mother's not nearby, it'll be on its own, in which case survival could be tricky," he said.
"Sadly it's a possibility it could turn up on a beach either dead or stranded."

When spotted on Monday, there were fears that the dolphin could become disorientated and try to beach itself.

Sightings difficult

"We were worried it would be pushed into the shallow water but fortuitously, the conditions were such that the ferry had to inch its way in," he said.

"This gave the dolphin the confidence to edge its way around and, from what we can tell, it made its way back out to sea."

He said that dolphin watchers would be looking out for any further signs of the animal, although he added that the conditions would make sightings difficult.

Little is known about Risso's dolphins which can be up to 12ft long (3.6m).

They have stocky heads without a beak and are light grey to white with a white chin and extensive scarring.

Mr Benson said the animals, which have a shark-like dorsal fin, were "incredibly enigmatic".

Hopes of stranded dolphin freeing itself are high!

A crew from the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute paid a visit Saturday to a dolphin stranded in the waters of Turnbull Bay.

Researchers speculate the dolphin may have come in with a high tide and been left behind. The SeaWorld crew was going to keep an eye on the dolphin, said Kim Amendola, a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, which oversees marine mammals such as dolphins and whales.

"We're trying to give her some time to get out by herself," Amendola said.
If the dolphin doesn't find its way out, a rescue may be attempted in the next few days.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"