Sunday, August 31, 2008

A peculiar teacher: a dolphin

Like most dolphin trainers, Billie is patient and dedicated teacher.

Over the last few years, the 23-year-old has taught up to half a dozen wild dolphins how to tail-walk - the skill of 'walking' backwards through the water on their tails.

What makes the feat even more remarkable is that Billie herself is a bottlenose dolphin - the only known example of a mammal teaching human tricks to friends and family members in the wild.

Billie the Dolphin learnt to 'tail walk' in captivity

Marine scientists have described the discovery as astonishing - and say it shows dolphins are even brighter than we realised.

Billie is thought to have learned the skill during three weeks in captivity in the early 1980s.

The female - who lives off the Adelaide coast in Australia - was captured by a local dolphinarium after she became trapped behind a marine lock and was unable to return to the sea.

After three weeks in a concrete tank she was released back into the wild with a '3' branded on her dorsal fin to make her easy to spot.

Billie returned to her usual haunts and - to the astonishment of dolphin experts - began to tail-walk herself.

Despite receiving no formal training, the scientists believe she learned the trick by watching her cell mates being fed for performing the tricks.

Now - more than 20 years after being released back into the wild - she is passing on the skill.

Scientists were astonished when Wave the Dolphin started to walk on her tail as well.

Researchers have discovered that Billie has taught an entire group of wild dolphins how to do the same trick.

Dr Mike Bossley, of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society Australia said: 'We can't for the life of us work out why they do it. We're doing systematic observations now to determine if there's something that may trigger it, but so far we haven't found anything.'

He added: 'I have observed all the local dolphins over a number of years, and have watched Billie occasionally performing tail-walks in the years since her release, sometimes in the bow wave of large ships, which is an awesome sight.

'About five years ago another female dolphin called Wave began performing the same behaviour, but does so with much greater regularity than Billie. A third adult female dolphin has also been seen tail-walking.'

Tail walking is one of the most popular tricks in dolphin show. Rewarded with food, dolphins learn to surge vertically out of the water and then propel themselves backwards 'walking' through the water.

But while it is common in captivity, it is extremely rare in the wild.

Dolphins are very social creatures and seem to learn from eachother.

The WDCS team are carefully watching Billie and her group to see whether the trick is a form of play, or communication. They also want to see if other members of the dolphin group will join in.
He added: 'Irrespective of function, it would seem that tail walking in the Adelaide waters is another example of cultural behaviour in large brained animals.

'By cultural behaviour we mean a behaviour that is transmitted between individuals and becomes a characteristic of a particular social group.'

Its not the first time that dolphins have shown cultural behaviour. A small group of dolphins in Western Australia hold sponges over their snouts as protection when searching for spiny fish on the ocean floor. Others have been observed using dead spiny fish to coax eels out of hiding places.
Other captive dolphins in America worked out how to bait visiting sea gulls. The animals learned to hold back fish from feeding time, and then use it to attract passing sea birds. When the gulls swooped, the dolphins would grab them and present them to the astonished trainers.

Cathy Williamson, Anti-captivity Campaigner for WDCS said: 'This behaviour by the Adelaide dolphins demonstrates their intelligence and is even more proof that these animals are unsuitable for confinement in captivity, where they are unable to express natural behaviour or form normal social groups with other animals.'

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bottlenose dolphin will give birth in Minnesota Zoo

Minnesota Zoo officials brought two female Atlantic bottlenose dolphins to Apple Valley earlier this year hoping they would hit it off with the zoo's lone male resident dolphin, Semo.

The plan apparently has worked. Zoo officials announced Monday that Allie, 21, is pregnant. If all goes well, the new calf will be introduced to zoo guests in 2009.

As a result of her pregnancy, zoo officials have canceled daily dolphin shows effective today so they can monitor the behavior and progress of all four dolphins as a group. Allie's mother, April, is currently undergoing evaluation by University of Minnesota veterinary staff for behavior irregularity. Guests will still be able to see the dolphins from the Great Hall in Discovery Bay.

Allie and her mother April came to Minnesota in January from the Dolphins Connection in Florida as part of a breeding recommendation by a consortium of zoos and aquariums that manage animals collectively.

Gangetic dolphins' population increases!

This should bring back the smile on the faces of conservationists. The number of endangered Gangetic river dolphins - the species has a global population of less than 2,000 - has been found to have increased in the Brahmaputra river in Assam. The Gangetic river dolphin is found in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli river system of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In the 19th century, the dolphins were plentiful in the entire range, although no actual data on their population was available. However, due to various pressures, such as incessant hunting because of the dolphin's oil and skin, the range and abundance of this species has sharply declined. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) revised the dophin's threatened status from Vulnerable to Endangered in 1996.

It is also one of the top protected species in India under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Besides the Ganges river system of northern India, the Brahmaputra river system is a major habitat of Gangetic dolphins in India. According to experts, because of no water development projects in the mainstream, the Brahmaputra river system in India and Bangladesh is now considered the last remaining refuge of this species.

"The fact that the number of Gangetic river dolphins in the Brahmaputra has been decreasing over the past two decades was an alarming fact. Until now there seems to have been a beacon of hope," Abdul Wakid, programme leader of the Ganges Dolphin Research and Conservation Programme in Guwahati, Assam, said. The beacon of hope that Wakid was referring to is the recent survey conducted by the NGO Aaranyak, which works on biodiversity research and conservation in the northeast.

"Our latest study this year revealed that the number of dolphins has increased by 15 since 2005 which is a sign of hope for us. The number of dolphins in 2005 was found to be 250, but this year's study found the numbers to have increased to 265 in the Brahmaputra," Wakid said. Aaranyak has set up a dolphin conservation network of 40 community-based, trained volunteers to monitor and conserve dolphins in their habitats scientifically.

They have also set up a field structure near the Kulsi tributary of the Brahmaputra to monitor the dolphins. "With Assam declaring the dolphin as the state aquatic animal in June this year, the enthusiasm to protect the animal is even more boosted. "Moreover, we have trained more than 100 youths in the Brahmaputra valley to conserve dolphins and conducted numerous campaigns to raise awareness on the issue at the grassroots level," Wakid said.

"The Gangetic river dolphin has been maintaining the aquatic equilibrium of the Brahmaputra. Therefore a decrease in its population adversely affects the socio-economic condition of Assam," he added.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dolphins in Las Vegas

Visitors to Las Vegas can explore more than the city's myriad dining, shopping and entertainment possibilities — they also can discover rare and endangered creatures. Several casinos offer opportunities to get up close and personal with animals like tigers, dolphins and sharks. Programs include:

Tiny tigers

Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat is the home of golden, white-striped and snow white tiger cubs.

Guests are invited to watch these felines, expected to weigh up to 575 pounds each when fully grown, as they pounce and play in a specially built nursery.

The cubs can be seen daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Secret Garden also is home to five rare animal breeds, including the royal white tigers of Nevada, the white lions of Timbavati, golden heterozygous tigers carrying the gold and white gene, African and Asian leopards, a black panther and a snow leopard.

Behind the scenes

Learn the secrets of the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat with a special one-hour VIP guided tour.

Guests will be escorted through the facility by one of the educational experts, and will be provided with an exclusive insider's view of the hard work and dedication that goes into the training and care of these animals.

The tour features Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, lions, tigers, leopards and a panther.
Trainer for a day

The Trainer for a Day program at The Mirage provides guests the opportunity to work side by side with a team of expert animal trainers as they care for a family of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.
From learning how to feed these creatures to discovering how to communicate with them, the day-long program provides guests with an unforgettable experience.

The program is available to four people each day, Fridays through Wednesdays, and participants must be 13 years old or older.

Predators of the deep

Dangerous predators and unusual aquatic creatures can be found within Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay.

The 90,560-square-foot facility allows visitors to view 100 aquatic species, including 15 types of sharks.

The aquarium's newest residents include a rare Komodo Dragon with 60 dagger-like teeth and deadly saliva, and a giant Pacific octopus, the largest species of octopus in the world.
Guests also can come face to face with stingrays, jellyfish, sea turtles and piranhas.

Audio wands — available in English, Spanish and Japanese — offer insight into the lives of these creatures of the deep.

The pride of Las Vegas

The king of the jungle reigns supreme within The Lion Habitat at the MGM Grand.

The one-of-a-kind, indoor habitat encourages guests to learn more about these majestic creatures by providing a rare opportunity to see them up close and personal.

Floor-to-ceiling windows and a clear Plexiglas tunnel provide optimum viewing for guests of all ages. Up to six lions can be seen each day.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Feeding dolphins is illegal and it hurts both dolphins and humans

Spotting a friendly dolphin out on the water is nice surprise on any boating trip - especially when it gets up close, seemingly begging for a treat. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a warning for boaters. Officials say feeding the wild animals is illegal and dangerous - for them and for you.

Out on the sparkling waters of Sarasota Bay, an audience was just waiting to spot a dolphin.

"You know, as soon as you approach Alvie Road Bridge, you're going to see probably at least five boats, people waiting for Beggar to come right up and approach," said Stacey Carlson of NOAA.
Beggar, a dolphin, seems to be quite the performer. Randy Wells, of the Mote Marine Laboratory, says Beggar has been doing the same tricks in the channel for 18 years.

"The typical repertoire for Beggar is to come up perpendicular to the path of a boat, let people see that he's there, then he'll come over and approach the boat very closely," said Wells.

With a flash of his distinctive smile, Wells says Beggar is hoping for one thing and one thing only - a snack.

"Chips, hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, pickles, sardines, oysters, canned fish of various kinds," Wells said.

But handouts are hurting Beggar and killing other dolphins up and down the coast.

"We deal with this problem from South Carolina, all the way down, up through the panhandle. I mean, wherever there's a dolphin, dolphins approach boats, people are going to feed them," said Tracy Dunn of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Officials at Mote Marine have been studying dolphins in Sarasota Bay since the 1970s. The biologists there have known Beggar his whole life.

Carlson says the number of dolphins getting entangled in recreational gear like fishing line and nets is increasing from seven in 2007 to nine already this year.

"Their natural wild behaviors change. They don't feed as often on their own, their forging strategies change," she said.

Instead of finding food on their own, they rely on humans for it. And because dolphins learn by association, the routine is passed on to others and then down to their young.

This isn't just dangerous for dolphins. Dolphins like Beggar are so habitually trained to expect food, many times people will reach over to pet them, and instead they instinctively bite.

Whether intentional or not, Beggar has ingested everything from cigarette butts to a diamond engagement ring.

"We got a call from a person he had bitten and removed the ring from, asking that we return it to them once we do the necropsy when the animal died from it," said Wells.

Fortunately, Beggar is still alive and swimming. But others haven't been that lucky.

That is why the feeding of dolphins is illegal. Some boaters just don't know it - others just don't care.
To prosecute, though, the National Marine Fishery Service has to see someone in the act.

"Just like speeding, when you see a boat, a marked law enforcement boat, people react differently. As soon as that boat is gone, people go back to their normal activity," said Dunn.

But undercover work is helping that and agents and biologists say education will help even more.
"We've all grown up thinking that dolphins are very special. They're human beings in wetsuits, basically. We know enough now to know that's not true," said Wells.

"No matter how readily the dolphin's coming up and approaching, looks like he's begging and needs food, you know? Do not feed them," added Carlson.

Even though Beggar's show can be quite convincing, he and all other dolphins will be better off finding food on their own.

Mote Marine Lab and NOAA add that frequent contact with people is making dolphins more comfortable approaching fishermen. As a result, they're getting tangled in lines and equipment.
When you're fishing, officials suggest recycling your bait and line by passing it along to another boat or throwing it away once you get ashore.

Best Fishing Practices for Avoiding Interactions with Wild Dolphins:

Never feed wild dolphins – it is against federal law and is harmful to the dolphins

Avoid tossing leftover bait to dolphins if they are nearby. Make use of leftover bait by taking it home to freeze for later or by giving it to your fishing neighbor

Check your gear and terminal tackle to make sure they are in good shape and will not break too easily, resulting in a lost fish with a hook that could be eaten by a dolphin

Avoid fishing in an area where dolphins are actively feeding – dolphins may mistake your bait or catch for food

Do not release caught fish in the presence of dolphins – this reinforces the association of recreational fishing activities with a food source. Anglers should try to release the fish as far from the dolphin and as quietly as possible.

Change fishing locations if dolphins are showing interest in your bait or catch.

Do not cast your line toward a dolphin.

Use corrodible hooks – any hook other than stainless steel.

Use circle hooks – it is believed that they reduce injuries to fish and dolphins.

Never try to reel in a dolphin that may be hooked – if a dolphin is hooked and the hook is set, cut the line as close to the dolphin as safely possible. If the hook is not set, put slack on the line and give the dolphin time to release itself.

Stay at least 50 yards away from wild dolphins while boating or using personal watercraft.

Stow used fishing line. Make sure to collect any broken or used fishing lines to discard in recycling bins (Please visit the Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program Web site for a list of bin locations:

If a recycling bin is not available, please discard in a secure bin. It’s against Florida law to intentionally discard monofilament into area waters because such line can kill or injure marine mammals, birds and sea turtles.

Friday, August 22, 2008

New device could save dolphins' lives!

Loads more dolphins could soon be spotted swimming around the UK, thanks to a new hi-tech gadget.

Dolphin groups around Britain have been getting much smaller and wildlife experts think it's because they're getting tangled up in fishing nets.

Now scientists have developed the Pinger device which sends sonic signals to the dolphins, telling them to steer clear of any nearby nets.

It's already worked on porpoises, now it's hoped it can work on dolphins too.

Fishermen in Cornwall, in the south west of England, are among the first in the UK to try the device and, if it's a success, it could be used in other areas too.

In the past, ocean experts thought pair-trawling - which is when two massive fishing boats drag huge nets strung between them through the sea - was a big threat to dolphins.

That's because as well as catching fish, they accidently net the mammals too - something that's known as by-catching.

Now experts think nets which stay on one place near the shore, called static nets, could also be part of the problem, which the Pinger could stop.

Wildlife expert Joana Doyle said: "The Pinger has been used to deter harbour porpoises from nets in the past and it has been very successful.

"It's massively reduced by-catch rates in a lot of fisheries globally."

Saturday, August 09, 2008

People's attention is captivated by baby dolphin

THE dolphin family at Sea World has welcomed a new addition with open flippers.
The calf was born on July 27 to 30-year-old Miko and staff at Sea World said mother and baby were doing well.

Today it swum comfortably with the other dolphins but stayed closed to Miko all morning.
The calf is yet to be named as staff are yet to discover if it's a boy or a girl.

Marine Animal Trainer Amanda Davis said dolphins had a 12 month gestation period and the calf was born late at night 10 days ago.

``We came in the next day and there was it was in the water,'' she said.

``We knew Miko was showing signs of labour and were hoping the calf would be in the water but it was still a nice surprise.''

Visually impaired teens swim with dolphins!

Twenty-eight teenagers, ages 14 to 18, from Miami Lighthouse for the Blind summer camp will have the opportunity to partake in the Dolphin Encounter of a lifetime on August 7th at 11 a.m. at Miami Seaquarium, 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne (Tel: 305-361-5705).

The teenagers will get a chance to touch dolphins, feed them, play with them and get up-close and personal with these loving creatures. Photo opportunity available.

"We are very grateful to Miami Seaquarium for offering our blind and visually impaired teenagers this wonderful opportunity to experience the use of their other senses by swimming with the dolphins. We want to give our transition teens an unforgettable experience and show them the unlimited opportunities that lie ahead of them,” said Virginia A. Jacko, a former client of the Miami Lighthouse who has been CEO of the organization since 2005. Ms. Jacko is the only blind female CEO in an agency serving the blind or visually impaired in South Florida.

“We want to stress that these kids can do as much as a sighted kid does. This is an event that helps them understand the importance of gaining confidence and taking on more challenges in their lives. Having these teenagers actually swim hands-on with the dolphins sends out that message loud and clear," said CEO Jacko.

“We are very excited to have the teenagers come out to the park and experience the magic of these animals. Interacting with dolphins truly is an unforgettable experience. We hope the se campers will leave Miami Seaquarium with a heighten sense of appreciation and understanding of these incredible animals,” said Eric Eimstad, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at Miami Seaquarium.

Members of the media are invited to join us in this wonderful opportunity to watch our blind and visually impaired teenagers have one of the most exciting and empowering experiences of their lives.

New dolphin specie identified in the last 50 years!

The first pictures of what has been dubbed the world's ugliest dolphin were shown on Australian television on Thursday.

The snub fin dolphin with its distinctive bulbous head was first identified three years ago off Western Australia's remote Kimberley coast.

It is the first new dolphin species to be discovered in fifty years.

Unlike some dolphins, the snub fins aren't used to humans and are easily scared away.

On Thursday researchers used a dart gun to retrieve a DNA sample from the dolphins for genetic examination.

"The last couple of days we've had fantastic weather and feeding activity and the right tides so some of the best sightings we've had so far," one of the researchers told Australian broadcaster Channel 10.

The dart only leaves a small scratch on the animal but provides a mountain of information.
Conservationists say despite the dolphin's odd appearance it is a magnificent creature.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Make-a-Wish Foundation may girl's wish come true, as a dolphin trainer!

Thirteen year old Crystal Mercado loves everything about dolphins. Her favorite movie is the “Eye of the Dolphin” and her most loved book is “Flipper.” So it is no surprise that for her one true wish Crystal would choose to be a dolphin trainer.

Diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition, Crystal and her family will be headed to Marathon, Florida on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008, where she will spend two days at the Dolphin Research Center (DRC) learning how to train dolphins and one day enjoying the local attractions in the Florida Keys. She arrives back in Odessa on Aug. 16, 2008.

While at the Dolphin Research Center, Crystal will spend two days in the “Trainer For a Day” program. Crystal will learn how to read and understand dolphin behavior as well as how DRC uses positive reinforcement to share new behaviors with the dolphins and sea lions. She will then join the trainer on the dock and experience the joy of communicating with the dolphins by learning to use hand cues (like sign language) to ask for specific behaviors.

Best of all, Crystal will get the experience of lavishing love and praise on the dolphins when they accomplish the task at hand.

To celebrate Crystal’s upcoming wish, the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of North Texas, West Texas Regional office, will be hosting a send off swimming party from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008, at 5803 Sundance Place in Midland.

Members from My Community Federal Credit Union (MCFCU) will also be at Crystal’s swimming party on Sunday. Last year MCFCU donated $18,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas, West Texas Region. Funds from this donation will be used to sponsor Crystal’s wish.
About the Make-A-Wish Foundation®

The Make-A-Wish Foundation® grants the wishes of children between the ages of 2 ½ and 18 who have been diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. The West Texas Regional Office serves 42 counties including Midland and Ector County. The approximate cost of one wish is $6,000. This year the West Texas Regional Office is working towards granting over 100 wishes in the West Texas territory.

Beached Risso dolphin was euthanized!

Dozens of young children learned a hard but necessary lesson yesterday as they watched a dolphin euthanized near Skaket Beach.

"It's like when we had to say goodbye to Chelsea," Janet Ives from Ottawa, Canada, told her 10-year-old granddaughter Emily Phelan.


To report the stranding of a dolphin, whale or seal, call the Cape Cod Stranding Network hot line at 508-743-9548.

Like many parents on the flats, Ives likened the death of the dolphin to the passing of a family pet.
The animal was a Risso's dolphin, C.T. Harry, assistant stranding coordinator with the Cape Cod Stranding Network, told the crowd during an impromptu lecture.

Risso's dolphins usually travel in large groups of up to several hundred individuals and are common 50 to 100 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, he said.

The 8½-foot, roughly 350-pound female dolphin that died yesterday was in bad physical condition and was likely separated from its group, he said.

Even if the dolphin was healthy enough to return to the water, it was unlikely that it would find its group again, Harry said. "This particular species is a very social animal."

The dolphin was first sighted swimming across the flats from Rock Harbor as the tide retreated yesterday morning at about 9.

The area around Skaket Beach experiences dramatic tidal action and water empties from the flats quickly during the falling tide.

Lifeguards realized the fin moving through the water was likely not a shark and called the stranding network, a project of the Yarmouthport-based International Fund for Animal Welfare, said Karen Wolff, an Orleans lifeguard originally from Philadelphia.

Once the animal beached itself, a crowd gathered and soon children of all ages had dug holes and trenches in the still wet sand to provide water for the rescuers to keep the dolphin moist. Children's buckets were put to use transporting water and members of the crowd provided towels for the rescuers to use.

"It makes me feel proud," said 6-year-old Paige DosSantos from Oakville, Conn., who excavated holes along with her 8-year-old brother, Jed.

The dolphin needed to be euthanized because of its poor physical condition, Harry said.

Fresh and healed lacerations on the animal's head and body indicated a skin infection but it was difficult to tell what might be wrong with the animal internally, he said.

The dolphin was also emaciated, a sign the animal was unable to eat, stranding coordinator Sarah Herzig said.

There have been few reported cases of Risso's dolphins stranding inside Cape Cod Bay, Herzig said. Most strandings of the species occur on the Nantucket Sound side of the Cape, she said.
"If it was healthier, we might try to relocate it," Harry said.

The dolphin was brought by stretcher to a waiting stranding network truck to be taken to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for a necropsy, an autopsy on marine mammals.

Information from the necropsy could be helpful for scientists studying Risso's dolphins, Harry said.

New Jersey Dolphin camp graduates 40 kids!

Those dolphins that left their ocean home for a river in northern New Jersey provided the backdrop for an unusual summer camp in Brigantine.The bottlenose dolphins have spent the past month frolicking in the Navesink River in Monmouth County.

Friday morning, kids graduated from what's called Dolphin Camp at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. Lee Ann Campbell, the camp director, says about 40 kids learned how to help stranded dolphins and other sea life.

Special call help dolphin calf identify their mother

Female bottlenose dolphins whistle 10 times more often than usual after giving birth in order to help newborns recognise who is "mum".

The findings by a US team appear in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

These "signature whistles" are unique to each animal, allowing them to be used for identification.
Bottlenose dolphins are highly social; in their first weeks, calves encounter many adult females that they could potentially mistake for their mothers.

"The most obvious explanation for the increase in maternal signature whistle production is the need for the mother to be in contact with her calf," zoologist Dr Deborah Fripp from Dallas Zoo suggested.

"However, the decrease in signature whistle production of [dolphin] mother Lotty after three weeks does not fit this idea, especially as calves actually wander further from their mothers as they get older."

Instead, Dr Fripp said a likely purpose of this whistling enables a process called imprinting, whereby the calf learns to recognise its mother.

"Bottlenose dolphins can swim at birth and are highly social. In other species, these traits are associated with imprinting. A calf can easily get separated from its mother and find itself among many other dolphins."

In some bird species, the critical period for imprinting is as short as a few hours. In some mammals, it is the first few weeks of life.

Imprinting may also help stop females from stealing newborns from other mothers. This behaviour has been reported before in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), and newborn Lotus was stolen on day one, though subsequently returned.

"Theft incidents almost always occur in the first day of the calf's life. Perhaps this is because after a calf has imprinted on its mother, such theft is more difficult," Dr Fripp explained.

Although dolphins can whistle at birth, they are not born with their unique signature whistle.
"Dolphin mothers do not teach their babies how to whistle, so the increase in whistle production at birth is not for this," Dr Fripp said.

She added: "Calves' whistles are almost never similar to their mothers'. Interestingly, female calf whistles are more similar to those animals in their environment which they are not interacting with than to those of animals they know."

In captivity

Dr Fripp investigated maternal whistle use in four captive dolphins at Kolmardens Djurpark in Kolmarden, Sweden. The females were named Nephele, Vicky, Delphi and Lotty.

The four females each had their own calf. Unfortunately, all but the last calf born - Lotus, the son of Lotty - died within two weeks of life.

"It is sad that the calves died. The infant mortality rate was high, but this year is not representative," said Dr Fripp.

"Infant mortality rate in the wild is not known - if a calf is born and dies within a week it probably won't be recorded. In captivity it is."

As soon as Lotus was born, Vicky stole him and took him to the surface. Lotus remained with Vicky until day six when he was removed from the pool for a day of medical treatment. On his return, he was reclaimed by rightful mother Lotty.

Dr Fripp added: "Unfortunately, with only one calf surviving to week three, and a calf with an unusual first week at that, the evidence to show a return to normal levels of maternal signature whistle production is not particularly strong. Future work is needed to examine this."

Human device saved dolphin calf's life!

A baby dolphin that became too weak to swim after getting caught up in fishing nets was saved using a custom-made life jacket, staff at a Japanese aquarium said on Tuesday.

The Umitamago aquarium on the southern island of Kyushu rescued the dolphin after receiving a call from fishermen in February saying it had been caught up in their nets. The creature was so weak that it could not even float on its own in the fishing boat's well.

Aquarium staff came up with the life jacket idea after becoming worn out keeping the ailing long-beaked dolphin afloat in a pool during her recovery.

"The dolphin was so feeble that two of our divers had to support her from below in a pool," said 39-year-old Toru Kumashiro, the mammal team leader at Umitamago. "It was very difficult. For five days, we had to take turns to support her around the clock."

Thanks to the contraption made of polystyrene and swimming floats, which allowed her to use her fins, the dolphin was able to recover sufficiently to swim by herself in nine days, Kumashiro said. A picture from the aquarium showed her wearing the "jacket."

"She is swimming around so energetically now," Kumashiro said. The dolphin was revealed to the public for the first time last week and visitors are being invited to think of a name for her, he said.
The aquarium intends to keep their newest exhibit and conduct research on her in collaboration with the Institute of Cetacean Research.

"There is still not much data on long-beaked dolphins. I hope we can make a contribution," Kumashiro added.

Death of dolphins are other marine creatures raise concerns

THE latest unusual visitor to these shores has been found washed up on a South Wales beach.
A stranded loggerhead turtle was discovered lying weak and on its back by a family out walking at Ogmore by Sea, near Bridgend.

But the creature is now being cared for by marine experts and will eventually be released into the warmer waters of somewhere like the Canary Islands.

Mark Major, his partner and their children stumbled upon the turtle during the family outing. Mark’s partner, Rhia Gregory, said: “We were picking up pebbles on the beach when I saw something on the pebbles and thought it was a large crab.

“Mark took a look and said it was a turtle on its back. There was a strong wind and the sea was rough so perhaps it was washed up. Our children, Jade, eight, and Kelsey, seven, were very excited. After all it’s not every day you find a turtle on a beach.

“It looked weak and so we contacted the RSPCA.”

An inspector from the RSPCA and the British Divers Marine Life Rescue identified it as a loggerhead and took it to the RSPCA centre in West Hatch, Somerset.

It has now been taken to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, where it will be prepared for eventual release into warmer waters.

Two rehabilitated turtles from Blue Reef were recently in the news having been successfully released into the warm waters of the Canary Isles.

Lin Gander, turtle administrator with West Wales-based Marine Environmental Monitoring, said: “Each year loggerhead turtles are found stranded on our Welsh beaches. These are usually small or disadvantaged turtles, with a flipper missing, and it is thought that they are carried to our shores by strong south westerly surface currents that take them away from their natural foraging areas in the Atlantic Ocean.”

Records of all turtle sightings and strandings around the UK and Irish waters are recorded by Marine Environmental Monitoring on a national turtle database.

Experts say live stranded turtles should be reported to the RSPCA and all turtle sighting and strandings should be reported to Marine Environmental Monitoring on 01348 875000.

Baltimore Aquarium: Dolphin calf stillborn!

One of the two pregnant dolphins at the National Aquarium in Baltimore gave birth to a stillborn calf early last week, aquarium officials reported Tuesday.

Shiloh, a 29-year-old Atlantic bottlenose, was in labor for 40 minutes in the early-morning hours of July 14. About 3 a.m., she gave birth to a stillborn calf weighing almost 32 pounds.

"It's always very hard to report things like this. When it's a baby, it breaks our heart," said Sue Hunter, director of marine mammal training. "Nobody wants to see it end this way."

Results of a necropsy -- an animal autopsy -- won't be available for at least a month, aquarium officials said.

Johns Hopkins University's comparative pathology lab conducted tests on the calf and Shiloh's placenta, but officials said the preliminary exam could not determine an obvious cause of death.
"There were no complications during Shiloh's pregnancy," said Dr. Leigh Clayton, head veterinarian and director of animal health. "Her labor seemed to progress quite normally, so we were very surprised when she had a stillborn calf."

Of the nine calves born at the aquarium since its opening in 1990, two have died: a 10-day-old male of bacterial meningitis, and a 4-month-old female of pneumonia. The female, named Bridgit, succumbed to an infection after being roughed up by at least two grown males in 2004.
Aquarium officials said that although they're disappointed, the death of a calf is not unusual. In the wild and in captivity, dolphin calves have a high mortality rate: About a third of all calves do not live to 1 year of age.

"It's a bit of a mystery when calves pass away here, because they get the best care and medication" at the aquarium, Hunter said.

Throughout Shiloh's 11-month pregnancy, veterinarians gave the dolphin exhaustive prenatal care, including periodic ultrasound examinations, daily vitamins, blood tests, and constant observation. All signs pointed to a successful pregnancy and birth, aquarium officials said.

Beginning July 13, aquarium volunteers and staff kept a 24-hour watch on Shiloh and often observed movement in her side, which meant her unborn calf was "kicking."

Shiloh arrived at the aquarium in 1990 and is an experienced mother. She has given birth to three healthy calves, including Chesapeake, who was born in Baltimore in 1992 and is pregnant with a calf of her own.

Both Shiloh and Chesapeake are in the nursing pool assisting Jade, a new mother to a 10-month-old calf named Foster.

All dolphins in the nursing pool are in good health, said aquarium officials. Chesapeake's prenatal tests also have been normal, and animal care staff are cautiously optimistic about her unborn calf, which is expected any time.

"Chesapeake's risk will be the same as Shiloh's," Clayton said. "Her baby has a decent chance, but it doesn't mean anything is guaranteed."

Dolphin carcass found in garden!

A Portland, England, man said he was shocked to open the curtains of his home and find a 3-foot dolphin dead in his garden.

Mike Elliott, 28, said the sight was especially shocking because he and roommate Gary Harvey live half a mile from the sea and it's an uphill climb to their home, The Sun reported Friday.

"I know dolphins are supposed to be clever, but there's no way it got there by itself and died," Elliott said. "I don't know if it's someone's idea of a joke or what, but it's obviously been dumped in our front garden."

He said the dolphin corpse had what appeared to be two puncture marks on its stomach, indicating it may have been harpooned.

The dolphin was removed by local authorities after police were alerted a crime may have been committed.

A spokesman for the town council said authorities have not determined how the dolphin ended up in the home's garden, but police have yet to find any evidence of a crime.

"It would have needed a hell of a tidal wave to reach that property and we didn't have one of those," the spokesman said. "Maybe at the end of the day it was a prank."

Fishermen defend themselves following 20 dolphins deaths

WA fishermen have been forced to defend their methods off the Pilbara coast after 20 dolphins died last year when caught in trawl nets dragged by commercial fishing vessels. Pictures leaked to The West Australian from within the Department of Fisheries reveal dead dolphins believed to have been caught in nets off the Pilbara coast last year.

The WA Fishing Industry Council said yesterday the number of dolphins caught inadvertently had more than halved in two years as the industry introduced new technology, including devices designed to stop dolphins from being trapped in the nets.

But marine conservation groups warned that the death toll was still too high and more needed to be done. The Pilbara trawl fishery is worth $7.5 million a year and is vital in providing fresh fish such as bluespot emperor, flagfish, spangled emperor, rankin cod and red emperor to the WA market. The industry argues that the use of trawl nets in waters between Point Samson and Port Hedland, which last year produced about 2200 tonnes of scalefish, is the only viable option for fishing the region.

WA Wilderness Society marine coordinator Dr Jill StJohn said despite vast improvements by the industry to reduce the dolphin bycatch, the mortality rate per tonne of fish caught in the Pilbara trawl fishery was among the highest in the world. She said the Pilbara fishery was near big populations of dolphins.

But WA Fishing Industry Council chief executive Graeme Stewart said techniques used to minimise dolphin bycatch were well advanced compared with other trawl fisheries internationally and more was being done.

Dolphin deaths in the Pilbara trawl fishery, which are reported in the department’s annual state of the fisheries report, have fallen from 52 in 2005, to 31 in 2006 and 20 last year. Since March 2006, devices to prevent dolphins being trapped have been made compulsory.

Mr Stewart said the aim was to reduce deaths further, but dolphin behaviour remained a mystery. Video footage had shown that dolphins regularly swam in and out of the nets to feed. Occasionally a dead dolphin was found but researchers could not determine the cause of death. Department spokesman Andrew Cribb said skippers were required to keep logbooks on interaction with protected species.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"