Saturday, November 24, 2007

High security zone breached by...a dolphin!

A dolphin ‘breached’ the Colombo harbour High Security Zone (HSZ) yesterday forcing Navy divers to escort the mammal towards the open waters.

Navy spokesman Commander D. K. P. Dassanayake said sailors patrolling the harbour area detected unusual movements in the sea and subsequently discovered the 5 to 6-foot long dolphin.
“Despite our attempts to send it away from the area, the mammal did not appear keen to go back to it’s home waters.

Later we found it was trapped in a fishing net,” Commander Dassanayake said adding that later Navy divers managed to set the dolphin free and escort it out of the high security zone and into the deep sea.

Dolphin perishes despite good samaritans' efforts

Desperate efforts to save an injured dolphin washed up on Langland Bay yesterday sadly failed. Local surfers, a vet and an RSPCA Inspector battled for hours to save the Atlantic white-striped dolphin, which was in extreme difficulty.Efforts were made to keep the dolphin in the water while its condition was assessed.

RSPCA spokeswoman Judith Haw said: "The prognosis wasn't very good from the start."A vet was called and with the RSPCA inspector kept it in the water for a couple of hours for the vet to check it and find out the best course of action. It was very underweight and it had a couple of superficial injuries to the body."Those on the scene contacted a marine veterinary expert and sent pictures to check the best thing to do.

Some at the scene believed the creature was a porpoise, but the RSPCA said it was a dolphin.Ms Haw said: "It was decided by the vets that it should be put to sleep."Quite often these type of animals come to the shore because they are ill and dying and this one wasn't in a good way."A lifeboat was on the scene and Swansea Coastguard attended.A Swansea Coastguard spokesman said: "There was a report of a porpoise injured at Langland Bay.

"There were a couple of surfers trying to assist it."Unfortunately it was quite badly injured and the RSPCA had to put it down."We called them and they turned up within the hour."We sent the coastguards down for the safety aspect."Langland Bay resident Fifi Davies said: "We get dolphins and porpoises washed up from time to time.

"Once there's one there everybody goes down to have a look."They try to save them but so often they have struggled and we have had very stormy seas."It's very sad."Sue Keates, who was at Langland, said: "He was 12ft from the edge of the water. To be honest, it looked as if it was hardly moving, the poor old thing."

Dolphin's noises vary depending on their environment

A wild dolphin in Moreton Bay. Photo: Melinda Rekdahl Dolphins appear to change their vocalisations depending on their physical and social environments and level of human interaction, new research shows. University of Queensland student Melinda Rekdahl has studied dolphin behaviour and communication for her Honours degree with the School of Integrative Biology.

Her results are the first to show that physical and social environments can alter dolphin communication during different activities such as feeding. Miss Rekdahl studied about 120 dolphins from groups of wild dolphins in Moreton Bay, captive dolphins at Seaworld and provisioned (wild but handfed once a day) at Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort. “Captive and provisioned dolphins whistled more than the wild dolphins while feeding with captive dolphins showing the highest rate of whistles,” Miss Rekdahl said.

“Feeding was the behaviour most influenced by humans in the captive and provisioned environment. “Human interaction through the provisioned feeding environment may lead to different vocalisations being used.” Miss Rekdahl spent two weeks with each dolphin group and recorded hundreds of hours of dolphin noises such as burst pulses and clicks and 10 hours' of whistles. She recorded the rates, types and frequency of whistles amongst the groups during feeding, socialising and milling.

Dolphin whistles and pulses are mainly used for social communication while their eco clicks are used for feeding and navigation. Miss Rekdahl will present her dolphin research at the International Marine Mammal Conference later this month in Cape Town. She will return to Australia on December 5. The 25-year-old from Tugun, is now researching humpback whale acoustics for her PhD.

New Bottlenose dolphin calf was born in well-known tourist destination

A NEW dolphin calf has been born at Western Australia's world-renowned Monkey Mia tourist destination.
The baby dolphin is the second born to Piccolo, part of a small group of dolphins that may be hand-fed by humans under strictly controlled conditions at the famous beach. The calf was born on Tuesday in the World Heritage-listed Shark Bay area, 800km north of Perth. "Both mother and calf are doing well, with the newborn measuring approximately 50cm long,'' WA Environment Minister David Templeman said.

Visitors are being urged to stay away from Piccolo and her calf when they come to shore to prevent the newborn from beaching itself. "In the first few weeks of life, the calf is tuned into the mother's movements and will follow any rapid movement in the water,'' Mr Templeman said. "If people are in the water near the calf and they move, the calf could follow and inadvertently beach itself.'' Almost half of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins do not live past three years old.

“The Department of Environment and Conservation has implemented a program to minimise any human or vessel interaction with the calf to ensure it has the greatest chance of survival,” Mr Templeman said. “As such, DEC has urged visitors to the beach to remain at the water’s edge when the mother and calf are inshore to prevent the calf from beaching itself. “In the first few weeks of life, the calf is tuned into the mother’s movements and will follow any rapid movement in the water. If people are in the water near the calf and they move, the calf could follow and inadvertently beach itself.”

Mr Templeman said every measure was being taken to give the calf the greatest chance of survival, as there was a high mortality rate for dolphins born in the wild. Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin calves generally are born 12 months after mating. Newborns suckle for up to four years, although at Monkey Mia there have been reports of calves continuing to suckle for up to six years.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dolphins dying from Russian oil spill

A fuel oil spill from a Russian tanker into the Black Sea is killing dolphins and the nearby Sea of Azov may suffer heavy pollution if urgent measures are not taken, Russia's environment watchdog said on Thursday.

A storm on Sunday broke up the tanker and sank at least four freighters while crippling other vessels in the narrow Kerch Strait between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Four seamen were drowned and four others are missing.

Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of state environment watchdog Rosprirodnadzor, said the oil had polluted a 50-km (30-mile) long stretch of Black Sea coastline and rescue workers would have to remove 10,000 tonnes of oily sludge from the shore.

Mitvol said around 1,500 tonnes of fuel oil was still afloat in the water, killing thousands of birds and fish.

"Unfortunately, not only fish are affected, but sea mammals as well -- we have documented cases of deaths of dolphins," he told a news conference.

"The fact that dolphins and birds listed in Russia's Red Book (of endangered species) are dying is very sad indeed ."

Environmentalists say the Black Sea dolphin is on the verge of extinction. The U.N. Environment Programme has declared 2007 the Year of the Dolphin.

Mitvol said environmental experts from Belgium, Brazil and the United States would arrive in the area in the next few days.

"Volunteers from all across Russia are heading there, as well as groups from Greenpeace and WWF," he said.


The Kerch Strait separates the port of Kerch on Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula from Russia.
Mitvol hit out at the head of the port, saying he had prevented storm-battered ships from using a channel alongside the port to reach calmer waters.

Mitvol also said that Ukrainian environmental inspectors had tried on Wednesday to stop Russian clean-up workers who were pumping the remaining oil out of the tanks of the partially-sunken tanker.

He said Ukrainian authorities were resisting a Russian proposal to contain the oil spill by building a dam across one of the channels in the Kerch Strait.

The area has been the subject of a territorial dispute between Russia and Ukraine. The two have had fraught relations since a 2004 bloodless revolution brought a Western-leaning president to power in Kiev.

Russia's attempts to build a breakwater stretching from its southern Krasnodar Region to Tuzla sparked a fierce territorial dispute between Moscow and Kiev four years ago. The row has not yet been resolved.

"Independence issues do not matter at a time of an ecological crisis. We share one planet," said Mitvol.

New Zealand: A pod of six dolphins visit beach and swimmers

Want to swim with the dolphins? It seems you only have to visit Whangaparaoa.
A pod of about six dolphin spent nearly two hours feeding and playing among boaties and swimmers at Tindalls Bay on Saturday morning.

Amateur photographer Ray Fussell of Tindalls Bay caught some of the action on his Nikon D200.
The dolphin visit follows a similar display about three weeks earlier at Little Manly Beach when swimmers had a close encounter while people crammed parking bays and side streets to watch.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Dana and the dolphin, a new children's book written with children's input

A new children's book titled “Dana and the Dolphin”, written by local resident Jane Jaffer, has been launched by Turtle's Bookshop.

The story centres on the adventures of a young Omani girl who is rescued by a beautiful grey dolphin.

“Dana and the Dolphin” have been illustrated by several, young and talented Omani schoolgirls.
Jaffer is currently spearheading a campaign with Dar Al Atta'a to promote reading in the community and to help raise funds for a mobile library unit. Jaffer said she thought it would be great for children to read a story that was set in Oman.

When the book was being written, Jaffer invited local children to offer their ideas and to involve them children in the creative writing.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in the UK has concerns about dolphin assisted therapy

Swimming with dolphins is promoted as one of the few treatments that can help children with disabilities such as autism. But it should be banned because it is cruel to the animals and dangerous to patients, and there is no evidence that it actually works, a report from a leading conservation group says.

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society said that dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) was “expensive and potentially harmful” and its call to end it has been endorsed by the charity Research Autism. Both say that the techniques exploit vulnerable families and captive animals and have no place in medicine.

The therapy places patients at serious risk of injury from their contact with dolphins, which are wild animals that can be aggressive or harm people inadvertently because of their strength, the society found. They have been known to bite, ram and slap swimmers, to hold them underwater and to engage in sexual activity.

The therapy also exposes people and animals to the risk of infection. Many dolphins carry bacteria that can infect human beings and some are infected with bacteria that cause brucellosis, which causes muscle pain.

DAT raises stress among captive animals and encourages the removal of dolphins from the wild: 28 dolphins have recently been exported from the Solomon Islands to Dubai, reportedly for this purpose.

All this costs the families of ill and disabled people thousands of pounds for therapeutic techniques that have never been found to be effective in proper trials.

Cathy Williamson, the author of the report, said: “Having researched this industry the only recommendation we can make is that there is a total ban on DAT. This therapy involves vulnerable people and also exploits the dolphins, which are forced to interact with people in conditions that are far from suitable for wild animals.

“We know that keeping dolphins in captivity has serious welfare implications for these animals, including a shorter life expectancy than in the wild, and we are saddened that the growing DAT industry is causing more and more animals to be subjected to a life in captivity.”

Richard Mills, of Research Autism, said: “We understand that parents will wish to do anything that might potentially help their child but we would urge people to exercise caution when considering such an undertaking.” The charity’s website gives the treatment three exclamation marks, indicating a therapy with very strong evidence of harmful effects.

Since the 1970s dozens of centres around the world have offered children and adults with a wide range of physical, psychiatric or developmental disabilities the chance to swim with, stroke and feed the marine mammals, usually in captivity but occasionally in the wild, at a typical cost of at least £1,500 for five 40-minute sessions. As there are no centres offering the therapy in Britain, and most are in the US, the cost to British patients can be much greater because of flights and accommodation.

Dozens of British children have travelled to Florida and other foreign providers for treatment, often after local fundraising campaigns. The experience is claimed to improve social interaction, speech, mood, concentration and even movement and motor skills for people with conditions ranging from Down’s syndrome to muscular dystrophy.

Dolphins' mass suicide on Iran coast is a source of concerns for environmentalists

The mysterious "mass suicide" of 152 dolphins washed up on Iran's coast over the past month has alarmed environmentalists, with the blame pointed at regional fishing practices.

At the end of September, 79 Striped Dolphins were found washed up off the southern port of Jask in southern Iran, and last week another 73 dolphins were found dead in the same area.

Pictures of rows of dolphin corpses in the sand have been widely featured in Iranian newspapers, which said the dolphins had "committed suicide" - behaviour the animals have exhibited on occasion in the wild.

"The suicide of dolphins on Jask's coast continues," the Governmental Iran newspaper wrote on Saturday. "Locals tried to put the animals back in the water but they refused to return."

The scale of concern over the deaths of the highly intelligent mammals has prompted Iran's environmental protection authorities to show a dead dolphin corpse to the press to explain the "suicides".

Mohammad Baqer Nabavi, deputy head of Iran's environmental protection organisation in charge of marine biology, said the most likely explanation was that the dolphins drowned after becoming entangled in fishing nets rather than because of pollution.

"We did not spot pollution in the tissue of the dead dolphins a month ago," he told reporters.
"We are basing our hypothesis for the suicide on fishing - either nets left at the bottom of the Persian Gulf or the big fishing nets that ships spread to catch different kinds of fish," Mr Nabavi added.

"As you know, though, they are marine animals but they need to come up to surface and breathe."
A striped dolphin, normally found in temperate and tropical waters of the world's oceans, was frozen and shipped in from southern Iran for display and showed traces of bruising and cuts.

"We did not spot any kind of pollution in their digestive system that could have been caused from eating poisoned fish, and we also have not spotted any viruses or parasites," he added.
But he also emphasised that the mystery had still not been solved.

He said that a committee comprised of the oil ministry, Tehran University, veterinary and shipping organisations and even the Iranian naval forces had been set up to find the cause of the problem.
Mr Nabavi said that in the next two weeks there would be some preliminary results about the cause of the dolphins' deaths.

US nuclear-powered naval ships and other sophisticated marine craft have also been operating in the Gulf, using ultrasound tracking devices that sometimes hinder the eco-locations intrinsic in sea mammals such as dolphins.

The striped dolphin's colour is very conspicuous and makes it relatively easy to distinguish at sea. The underside is white or pink, and one or two dark blue bands run from the bottom of the eye to the flipper.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"