Sunday, May 25, 2008

River dolphin stoned to death by villagers

Lucknow, May 8: A dolphin couple fleeing the Ganga’s filthy waters got stuck in a shallow, muddy canal where the male was stoned to death by villagers this morning.

Wildlife officials said the endangered Gangetic dolphins, of whom only 2,000 survive, had strayed into the Sharda canal, about 35km from here. The male was found dead with its snout fractured while the female was missing till this evening.

“A villager in Samshi, Mohammad Basheer, was trying to carry away the dead dolphin with help from others around 10 this morning when he was detained and questioned. He said he found the dolphin stuck in the canal’s one-and-a-half-foot-deep waters,” assistant conservator of forests M.P. Singh said.

The dolphin was unusually big. It was 1.53 metres (five feet) long with a 35cm snout and 27cm tail, and weighed 80kg.

“The body bears marks of stoning but the animal would have died of pollution anyway,” said Utkarsh Shukla, a veterinary surgeon who carried out the post-mortem at Lucknow zoo.

“Just when it was struggling to get out of the canal’s muddy waters, the frenzied villagers may have hastened its death.”

The villagers say they saw a second dolphin as well. A hunt is on for the animal. “We think it was a female,” Shukla said.

Divisional forest officer B.N. Singh said the dolphins were probably trying to escape the Ganga’s muddy Allahabad-Varanasi-Kanpur stretch.

They may have swum into the Ghagra, a shallow and equally filthy tributary, and then into the Sharda canal. Else, they may have strayed from the clear waters of the Gerua into the polluted Ghagra.

The Gerua, which flows through the Katarnighat sanctuary on the India-Nepal border near Bahraich, 135km from here, is home to many dolphins and other aquatic species.

Dolphins are drawn to humans, so they are easy prey for villagers. The latest killing comes at a time the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is shooting a film on Gangetic dolphins at Katarnighat to spread awareness among villagers. Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter Shweta Nanda has participated in the film, being made by the South Africa-based organisation, Back to Back.

Of the surviving 2,000 Gangetic dolphins, about 700 are found in the Ganga and its tributaries in Uttar Pradesh. In both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the animals are mercilessly killed whenever they stray into smaller rivers, which they are doing increasingly because of rising pollution in the Ganga.
Rarely, however, they are luckier. In January last year, a dolphin got trapped in a rivulet in Haidergarh, about 40km from Lucknow, but was rescued by forest officials who were tipped off in time.

Pollution is killing dolphins also in the river Chambal in Etawah district, where a survey found that their number had fallen from 65 to 45.

The Ganga is thick with untreated sewage, human remains, chemicals and disease-causing microbes. A cleansing programme, called the Ganga Action Plan, has been going on since 1985 but environmentalists say it has been a disaster. Crores have been spent under the project but the river-water quality has worsened in some places.

Tim Ford and Steve Hamner, microbiology researchers from America’s Montana State University, have called the Ganga “a soup of pollution” in a recent study. Their report has been handed to the Supreme Court, which is considering anti-pollution measures.

Rescued river dolphin often face a tough return to the wilderness

An old dolphin named C6 fought off a shark attack, was successfully rehabilitated and released by human rescuers — only to choke on an exotic fish and die in the Indian River Lagoon.

A baby dolphin named Carter who wouldn't leave his dead mother also was cared for and then released, only to disappear into the lagoon without a trace.

The cases represent the successes of healing and releasing lagoon dolphins but also the harsh reality of the wild that can thwart the best of human intentions. The story of these two dolphins was chronicled by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute scientists and researchers in their latest paper, published in the journal Aquatic Mammals.

"Our skills and our methods to rehabilitate this dolphin (C6) ... were right on the money," said Steve McCulloch, a veteran dolphin researcher and marine mammal stranding program manager at Harbor Branch. "C6 and Carter have taught us a lot about how to do a better job next time."
Scientists say such research is the key to helping the species survive.

"What we're trying to do is understand these animals a little better," said Dr. Gregory Bossart, chief marine mammal veterinarian and head of pathology at Harbor Branch. "Our research is starting to establish some footholds."

At the same time, he said, "the take-home message here is releasing animals back into the wild is not as easy as we thought or as Hollywood portrays."

The article suggests although the expense of saving a dolphin can reach $100,000, "the contribution to conservation may be more indirect though public exposure, education and scientific research ... rather than as numerical additions to non-endangered populations."

The C6 story began in 1980, when the dolphin was first documented during a population survey of the lagoon mammals.

C6 was captured with another male dolphin, C7, and both were given brands with those numbers for future identification.

The males worked together in a "coalition" for years to find, protect and mate with the best female dolphins.

"This is Mother Nature's way of making sure the dolphin population retains stronger genetic codes," McCulloch said.

But on Aug. 30, 2000, a local resident called about a dolphin bleeding to death on a boat ramp at McWilliams Park in Vero Beach.

"He was melting down," McCulloch said.

C6 endured six months of rehabilitation, but there was a debate whether the geriatric dolphin would survive if released. Dolphins usually live about 25 years in the lagoon. C6 was 24.

"Aside from old age, he was in good shape," McCulloch said. "I mean he fought off four bull sharks."

During pre-release tests, C6 made clear it was ready to go home when it darted at McCulloch in the water and broke two of the researcher's ribs with its powerful snout. The dolphin broke another researcher's ribs shortly afterward.

C6 was released in the same area where it was rescued.

In three days, C6 swam 80 miles north and, somehow, found partner C7 once again.

"These dolphins, they have 100 million years of instinct. That's something I never discount," McCulloch said.

But then, 100 days after its release, C6 swallowed a fatal meal.

Known as a black chin tilapia, the fish that's invasive to the lagoon uses its spine to lodge itself in a predator's mouth. The tilapia dies but so does the predator. Researchers believe the fish sacrifices itself for the good of its own species by taking one more predator out of its environment.

The story of 1-year-old Carter was much shorter.

It was found Aug. 9, 2003, near the same park as C6, trying to suckle from his deceased mother.
Carter was nursed to health in three months and released back into the lagoon. Radio transmissions from its tag ceased seven days later.

"We still to this day are hoping we might find evidence," McCulloch said.

Whatever happened, dolphin releases are "not a cut-and-dry, black-and-white program," McCulloch said. "Each dolphin is distinctly different."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dolphin saved in Turkish Cyprus

A four meter long dolphin has been saved after being found stranded ashore near occupied Famagusta.The dolphin was saved by experts from the Turkish Cyprus Coast Guard and the Eastern Mediterranean University’s Underwater Research and Imaging Centre in the occupied areas.

The experts carried the dolphin 3 miles off the coast with the help of a carpet to prevent any injuries.It was then released.Doctor Burak Ali Cicek from the Underwater Research and Imaging Centre told Bayrak Radio that no injuries were detected on the dolphin.

Gangetic dolphin found dead in Indian Canal

A male Gangetic dolphin was found dead in the Indira Canal here Wednesday, officials said.'Although we have sent the dolphin for a post-mortem examination, the death appears to be natural.

It probably died due to scarcity of water in the canal,' said M.P. Singh, Awadh assistant conservator of forests.Forest officials believe the dolphin may have accidentally swept into the canal from the Ghagra river and its tributaries in Lakhimpur district.

Bionic tail for special dolphin

As she glides through the water, Winter the dolphin appears to be completely normal. But she is the world's first bionic sea creature after being fitted with an artificial tail.

Winter the dolphin is able to swim thanks to a prosthetic silicon tail.

Only closer inspection reveals the dolphin's rear end is entirely prosthetic.

Winter, an Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, lost her own tail after being caught in a harsh crab trap.

She was found at just two-months old in 2006, floating in distress off the coast of Florida.

Rescuers rushed her to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, in Clearwater, Florida, where they battled to save her life.

David Yates, the director, said: "For the first few days, we really didn't think she'd live at all.

"She had 24-hour around-the-clock care by our veterinary staff, our animal care staff, and our volunteers.

"We literally watched her every second of the day."

Winter survived, but she lost her tail and was left with just a stump.

"She had to learn how to swim without a tail, which no dolphin has ever done in captivity," said Mr Yates.

'We didn't know if she could do that."

Winter tried to master the art – but couldn't swish up and down like a normal dolphin, and could only waggle from side to side.

Vets were worried this unusual swimming might alter the long-term health of her spine.

So, they decided to make an artificial tail for Winter.

Kevin Carroll, one of the world's leading prosthetists, offered his services.

Besides his work with people, he has designed prosthetics for dogs, an ostrich, and even a duck.

"I came straight down, saw Winter and felt really sorry for her," he said.

"I said, 'OK, we'll fit a her little tail. Not a big deal.' Little did I know it was going to take a year and a half."

He explained: "With a person, when we fit a socket on them, we have one long, solid bone.

"We don't have to have the socket moving in every direction.

"With a dolphin, it needs to move along with her full spine."

Casts were used to monitor Winter's growth and body shape and to provide the mould for her new tail.

Finally, in August last year, Winter was fitted with her new silicone and plastic tail, which is 2 1/2 feet long.

Now she is swimming and splashing about in normal dolphin-style.

"Winter's spirit was very positive and she had a never-say-die attitude," said Mr Yates.

"She adapted very quickly."

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Dolphin died following freak accident during show!

A dolphin at SeaWorld's Discovery Cove died after it collided with another dolphin while performing a trick in front of spectators.

Officials said the dolphin, called Sharky, hit the other dolphin during a Sunday show at Discovery Cove. The incident was apparently a freak accident.

Sharky was a 30-year-old female dolphin that had performed the trick dozens of times, officials said.

The dolphin will be used for research at the park.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"