Saturday, September 13, 2008

Las Vegas: MGM Mirage welcomes baby dolphin

A third-generation baby dolphin was born Saturday at Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage. Habitat officials said the female took its first breath with its mother and grandmother nearby.

The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin was the eighth dolphin to be born at the habitat.

The unnamed calf was born after a two-hour labor. It has been thriving since birth, habitat officials said.

The calf, as well as the habitat's other dolphins, are on display for public viewing.

Young child with cancer has wish granted: swimming with dolphins

A courageous young cancer patient is set to fulfil her greatest wish and swim with dolphins thanks to fundraising by Matlock Rotary.

Seven-year-old Kade Webster, who lives with her grandparents in South Darley, had been battling a rare nerve cell cancer but finished treatment in July.Her grandmother Janet Webster said Kade, who started junior school at South Darley, this week, would be thrilled to swim with dolphins.She added: "She taught herself to swim on holiday in France so this idea of swimming is amazing. She loves the sea and animals.

"Rotary club members heard about her wish and raised almost £3,000, by manning a stall at Chatsworth Country Fair, to put towards fulfilling her dream.Money will also be given to an 18-year-old boy, from Darley Dale, who has a debilitating disease.John Bent from Matlock Rotary Club said members wanted to do all they could to help local children.He added: "It makes you sit up and realise when you have grandchildren of your own who are not affected by illness how fortunate you are."Your heart goes out to children like that."

Janet said: "I'm overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of people. So many people have taken Kade in to their hearts."There is no cure for her illness and you only get one shot at treatment. At the moment she is just fantastic. She is doing really, really well."Kade has undergone several bouts of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and is the face of Sheffield's Children's Hospital, where she was treated.

The full article contains 269 words and appears in Matlock Mercury newspaper.

Protecting the blind Indus dolphins

Sindh Wildlife department is taking measures to save and maintain the 10 Ramsar sites in Sindh, keeping in view that that the migratory birds came from Russia, Siberia and various countries of Central Asia to spend winter season in Pakistan.

Besides, the department would also put more concentration on the reserves of Blind Indus Dolphin by providing better environment and living condition for them as the department has so far saved 76 blind Indus dolphins through rescue operation from 1995 to 2007. The population of the Indus Dolphin across Indus River has reached to 821, sources said.

The Indus dolphin reserve has also been declared Ramsa in 2001.In Pakistan, so far 19 wetlands have been declared as Ramsar sites in Pakistan out of which 10 are in Sindh. The ten wetlands of Sindh which have been declared as Ramsar sites based on the criteria that they regularly support congregation of 20,000 water birds or more regularly.

Ramsar (Iran) Convention was held under the auspices of wetland international and was signed by Pakistan in 1971 and ratified in January 1976. The sources in Sindh Wildlife department said 10 Ramsar sites were in Sindh out of which three sites were declared in 2002, three in 2001 and three in 1976.

The first one was Drigh Lake declared Ramsar in 1976 which covered an area of 164 hectors, Haleji Lake in 1976 which covered an area of 1,704 hectares, Kinjhar (Karli) Lake in 1976 which covered an area of 13,468 hectares, Indus Dolphin Reserve in 2001 which covered an area of 125,000 hectares. Jubho Lagoon in 2001 which covered an area of 706 hectares, Nurri Lagoon in 2001 which covered an area of 2,540 hectares, Hub Dam in 2001 which covered an area of 27,000 hectares, Deh Akro-11 Desert wetland complex in 2002 which covered an area of 20,500 hectares, Indus Delta in 2002 which covered an area of 472,800 hectares and Runn of Kutch in 2002 which covered an area of 566,375 hectares.

The other 9 Ramsar sites situated in Punjab, NWFP and Balochistan.According to the sources in NWFP, Tanda Dam was declared Ramsar in 1976 which covered an area of 405hectares and Thanedar Wala in 1976 which covered an area of 4,047 hectares.

In Punjab, Taunsa Barrage declared Ramsar in 1996 which covered an area of 6,576 hectares, Chashma Barrage in 1996 which covered an area of 34,099 hectares and Uchhali Complex (including Khabbaki, Uchhali and Jahlar Lakes) in 1996 which covered an area of 1,243 hectares.In Balochistan Astola (Haft Talar) island was declared Ramsar site in 2001 which covered an area of 5,000 hectares, Jiwani Coastal Wetland in 2001 which covered an area of 4,600 hectares, Miani Hor in 2001 which covered an area of 55,000 hectares and Omara Turtle Beaches in 2001 which covered an area of 2,400 hectares.

The sources in the Sindh Wildlife department said that the results of preserving the Indus Blind Dolphin was achieving as its population is increasing.

Girl and dolphin bond together

A 9-year-old girl will never forget a trip to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium when she met Winter, a dolphin who lost her tail after being injured in a crab trap line.

Atrina Simpkins was born with a birth defect and is missing her right leg.

"What I love about Winter is she has the same thing as me," she said. "And I never saw an animal or a dolphin like that ever, the same as me."

Simpkins' meeting with Winter helped her realize she wasn't alone.

"Some people would try to ignore me," she said. "Some people would look at me different ways but when I came here and I saw the dolphin and we got in contact and I found out that the dolphin actually likes me as my friend."

When Simpkins needed a new prosthetic leg, the aquarium put her in contact a company developing a cutting-edge prosthetic tail for the dolphin.

"In the beginning, human prosthetics benefited Winter and now all the technology that's gone into Winter's prosthetics is now benefiting humans," said dolphin trainer Abby Stone.

Katrina lives in Indiana, but keeps in touch with aquarium staff for updates on her best friend.

"You can see it in their eyes. It means a lot," Stone said. "You can see there is a relationship there and a connection there that goes far beyond what we understand."

Saving the Mekong dolphin in Cambodia

Overfishing, war, and pollution have decimated the dolphins, and only a few dozen of them are left. Environmentalists have begun a project aimed at contributing to the development of the villages and to saving the dolphins, but their numbers continue to diminish.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Saving the few dozen freshwater dolphins still remaining in the Mekong River, and helping the local population by guaranteeing them a source of livelihood: this is the aim of the "ecotourism" project begun in the border area between Laos and Cambodia by the Cambodia Rural Development Team (CRDT), which has the twofold objective of protecting wildlife and providing an alternative source of income for the inhabitants of the villages.

For centuries, the waters of the Mekong River - which crosses China, Laos, and Cambodia, before reaching the ocean in Vietnam - were the uncontested habitat of thousands of freshwater dolphins. The Sino-Indian War and the increase of industrialization, together with high pollution levels, have decimated the species, only a few dozen of which survive; 71, according to the latest count provided by the World Wildlife Fund.

The village of Sambor, in the north of Cambodia, is one of the places selected by the CRDT as a model of environmentally sustainable development: tourists are given the opportunity to live in contact with the local population, to help the inhabitants protect the natural habitat of the dolphins, and to teach a little English to the children. The most frequently requested activities include well digging, sewer construction, and work in the fields.

The experiment promoted by the activists is intended to save the dolphins from extinction by radically changing the habits of the inhabitants of the village, who for decades have used aggressive fishing methods like explosives and high-capacity nets. Now the freshwater dolphins are seen as a resource to be "exploited" in order to attract foreign capital and tourism; the visitors pay 60 US dollars for three days in contact with nature, and the money is used to support the local population. In a country in which half the population lives on a dollar a day, the inhabitants of the village earn five dollars a day by providing food (two dollars) and lodging (three dollars) for the visitors.

But recent studies have demonstrated that if the benefit for individuals is beyond question, the same cannot be said for the dolphins: in spite of a small increase in their numbers in the initial phase of the project, it is not yet clear whether this is truly effective for preserving the species. Scientists affirm that a new and not yet identified disease is spreading rapidly, killing the offspring. Researchers fear that the new virus - caused by pollution in the water, infested with chemical agents and the runoff from gold mining projects - could soon lead to the total extinction of the dolphins.

Dolphins deaths raise concerns!

If a dolphin die-off in the northern lagoon moves south, the marine mammals' population in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties could be at risk, says a researcher at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

"Indian River dolphins are excellent sentinels of ecosystem health and, beyond that, human health," said Dr. Gregory Bossart, marine mammal veterinarian and pathologist at the Fort Pierce research center. "They're the canaries in the coal mine. We need to address the problems they have not just for their sake but out of concern for the health of the ecosystem and even our own health.

"We need to find out what's going on before it comes around and bites us in the rear end."
Since May 1, 47 dolphins have died in a stretch of the Indian River Lagoon from the southern end of the Mosquito Lagoon near Titusville south to Palm Bay, said Megan Stolen, research biologist at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in Orlando, who has been designated as the on-site information coordinator for what has been deemed an "unusual mortality event" by federal officials.
That designation means scientists throughout the country have been tasked with investigating the die-off and trying to determine a cause.

So far, Stolen said, "we don't have a smoking gun."

Stolen said the area of the die-off "doesn't appear to be spreading; there's no indication at this point that it's moving south." But both she and Bossart noted that the distinct groups of dolphins in the lagoon interact.

"So there's the possibility that whatever is killing dolphins in the northern part of the lagoon could affect dolphins (in Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties)," Bossart said. "And with the health problems our dolphins have already, this could push them over the edge."

Bossart began studying the lagoon's dolphins after a die-off claimed 27 in 2001.

"Our research over the past few years has shown some very disturbing health problems already among dolphins in the lagoon," Bossart said, "such as levels of mercury 21 times what we permit in the fish we eat."

Even if the cause of the die-off is determined, Stolen said, "there's not much we can do right away. We can't move in and save the sick dolphins. But we can learn from this; and if the cause is something we're putting in the water, we can stop future deaths by doing the right thing."


Megan Stolen, research biologist at the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in Orlando, said possible causes of the dolphin die-off include:

•Biotoxins, "toxins with biological origins, such as algae blooms, as opposed to those with manmade origins, such as oil spills."

•Man-made contaminants such as pesticide runoff and mercury.

•Infectious diseases such as viruses and bacteria. "One possibility we have discarded," Stolen said, "is direct human contact such as boat strikes and entanglements in fishing nets."


•If you see a dolphin that's dead or in distress, immediately call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hot line: (888) 404-3922.

•Signs that a dolphin is in distress include: a newborn by itself for a long period of time and animals that aren't moving or are having trouble breathing, especially in shallow water.

•Time is of the essence: The sooner researchers can examine an animal, alive or dead, the better their chances of determining the cause of the die-off.


Number of dolphins killed since May 1: 47

Number of males:a 24

Number of females: 11

Number in which sex could not be determined: 12

Number of newborns: 15

Number of dolphins killed in 2001 event near Cocoa Beach: 27

Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Are Bottlenose dolphins hungry for cetaceans?

Scientists who autopsy cetaceans that wash up dead on British beaches have come to a grim conclusion: some species are being killed by bottlenose dolphins.Dead porpoises (and other cetaceans) turn up regularly on beaches around Britain.

According to a Defra report last year (pdf), the cause of death of 15 out of 56 porpoise bodies found - the majority - was "physical trauma (bottlenose dolphin attack)". The photo above shows the rake marks on a harbour porpoise caused by a bottlenose dolphin.The killings were first reported from the north-east coast of Scotland, then off the coast of Wales, and this week the body of a Risso's dolphin was found further south still, in Cornwall.

The Risso's dolphin (see photo below) was said to have been killed over food shortages and dolphins were described as being so hungry they are turning on each other.

Autopsies show some of the dead animals (13 out of 56) have died of starvation. But not all, and the bottlenose killers are not eating the porpoises they kill. In the case of the Risso's dolphin, it is not even a competitor for the same prey (Risso's feed on squid). So why are they killing other cetaceans?"We can't state confidently that the killings are tied to declining fish stocks," says dolphin expert Nick Tregenza, who advises the Marine Strandings Network in Cornwall.

His guess? "They could be doing it for fun."Bottlenose dolphins are known to spread behaviour culturally and there are extensive records of violence between and within dolphin pods."Killing for fun" could be another culturally transmitted behaviour.Tregenza likens it to the spread of milk-bottle opening by blue tits."It could be a form of play rather than food competition," he suggests.

Alternatively, he says, a bottlenose dolphin might have tried to help the weak Risso's dolphin and become angry when the Risso's failed to respond.In a sick way, I kind of like the "killing for fun" explanation. Tregenza says the Cornwall Wildlife Trust has reported that dolphins have been seen picking up stones from the sea bed and throwing them on the surface.

"They were thought to be throwing stones at seals on rocks not far away," Tregenza says.Stone-throwing and killing for fun. Dolphins are even more like us than we thought.Rowan Hooper, online news editor

A pod of Bottlenose dolphins beached themselves on Florida beach

Since mid-May, 46 bottlenose dolphins have stranded themselves and died on beaches throughout the Indian River Lagoon, alarming scientists who say that's six more dolphins than they usually find in an entire year.

Three of the dead dolphins have been found in Mosquito Lagoon, on the southern end of Volusia County.

The deaths have been declared an "unusual mortality event," and an investigation is under way, said Wendy Noke-Durden, a research biologist with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute.

Marine biologists from across the country are comparing notes and sending samples for testing, with Hubbs serving as the coordinating agency.

So far, scientists don't know why the dolphins are dying, Noke-Durden said.

The die off does give scientists a sense of deja vu. It's the latest in a string of mysterious animal deaths and diseases in the lagoon over the past decade.

In 2001, 34 dolphins stranded. Two years earlier, 100,000 horseshoe crabs died. Then in 2002, puffer fish in the lagoon suddenly became toxic to the people who ate them.

Scientists also have worked to pinpoint the causes of lesions and tumors on sea turtles and dolphins in the lagoon. Found on more than a third of the dolphins, it's too soon to tell if the tumors or lesions have any role in the latest deaths.

Last winter, a spate of dolphin and manatee deaths happened during a toxic algae outbreak, but scientists don't think the latest deaths are related because they haven't found high levels of toxins in the dead dolphins. Researchers have found respiratory problems in some and brain lesions in others.

Most of the dolphins have been emaciated, with no food in their stomachs, said Blair Mase, the southeast regional marine mammal stranding coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service. The deaths appear to be happening among the most vulnerable dolphins -- newborns and older males.

The deaths could be the result of harmful algal blooms or even regular diseases or toxins, Mase said. They had suspected a form of toxin released by a kind of algae called pyrodidium. A surge of that was reported in August. It produces a luminescence and causes the paddles of kayakers to glow in the dark.

They've tested for biotoxins and viruses and are "covering all the bases," Mase said. "We've got just enough information to go, 'Hmm, I wonder what that means?'

"Maybe something's going on that's not due to one cause," Mase said. "We may have numerous things going on that are causing this."

Now scientists have a new concern. They'll be watching the lagoon carefully in the coming months to measure how all the releases of floodwater from the St. Johns River affect the lagoon ecosystems. The lagoon spans 156 miles along Florida's east coast and includes three water bodies. It is connected by a canal to the St. Johns.

One challenge the biologists face is the condition of the dolphins when they're found. Many of the dolphins have been too decomposed to get good quality samples.

"The better condition the animals are in when they're found, the better results we can get," Noke-Durden said.

Anyone who sees a stranded dolphin in the lagoon is asked to call the state's wildlife alert hot line at 888-404-3922.

Watching dolphins is fine...if not done too close!

SIGHTSEERS trying to get close to a pod of dolphins off a South Devon coast have been warned they could be breaking the law.

The RSPCA and environmentalists have fired a warning shot after reports the marine mammals were becoming 'stressed'.

About 35 craft surrounded five bottlenose dolphins in Hope Cove in the South Hams area on Friday.

Brixham Sea Watch said the mammals could have been 'seriously stressed' by the actions of the vessels.

Brixham Sea Watch were alerted to the dolphins' plight by a National Coastwatch lookout who was concerned for their welfare.

Dolphins are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Anyone recklessly disturbing them risks prosecution and a fine of up to £5,000.

Sea Watch spokesman Lindy Hingley has monitored dolphins in the area for several years and said the creatures would have been 'seriously stressed' by the presence of the boats.

She said the organisation wanted to fire a 'shot across the bows' of sightseers keen to approach the pod.

RSPCA spokesman Jo Barr said: "We understand people are trying to get close to them on boats to take pictures, and the dolphins are becoming very distressed.

"We are urging the public to keep their distance and would remind them that under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is illegal for any person to recklessly disturb a wild animal and this includes dolphins."

Aquarium in Bulgaria welcomes baby dolphin

A baby dolphin born in a zoo in Bulgaria is waiting to get a name as no one knows if it is male or female yet.

It takes several days or weeks to work out what sex dolphins are when they are born.

The baby and its mother, Dolly, have got 45 days off before they start performing for visitors at the dolphinarium.

Protecting dolphins ends in hospital stay for outspoken man

On Tuesday, August 19th, at about 8:30 pm, City Councilor, Lawrence Makili, was abducted from his home in Honiara, Solomon Islands, by eight men in two cars.

He was then driven a few kilometers out of town when the thugs beat him and tried to kill him. Mr. Makili bravely fought back which was said to have saved his life. He received a broken right arm, fractured ribs, fractured, facial bone, and several other injuries. Mr. Makili has been an outspoken dolphin protector, trying to stop the traffic in captive dolphins in the Solomon Islands.

There are currently five different dolphin capture teams operating in the Solomon Islands. "Anyone of them could be responsible for this," stated Richard O'Barry, Director of Save Japan Dolphins Coalition. Mark Berman of Earth Island Institute said, "Lawrence Makili was a victim of attempted murder, simply for trying to help his country and their wild dolphin population. We will be returning to the Solomon Islands to do everything we can to find out who is responsible and bring them to justice."

At this time, the identities and motivations of the attackers are unclear and no arrests have been made regarding the incident.Mr. Lawrence Makili is a active campaigner to protect forests and has been monitoring the local tuna industry on behalf of Earth Island Institute to ensure the tuna catch is Dolphin Safe.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"