Dolphin Dextrality

Researchers have observed that almost all bottle-nose dolphins appear to have a dominant right-hand side.

A team from the Florida-based Dolphin Communication Project say bottlenose dolphins appear to have an even more pronounced right-side bias than humans. The right-flipper trait is most evident when the mammals are chasing prey.

They almost always use the right flipper to make sharp left-hand turns just before digging their beaks into the sand to grab a meal. This appears to keeps their right eye and their right side close to the ocean floor during the forage.

Trump administration re-reauthorizes wildlife-killing M-44 ‘cyanide bombs’ despite strong opposition

After withdrawing an interim decision instituting minor restrictions on the use of sodium cyanide in wildlife-killing devices called M-44s, or “cyanide bombs,” the Trump administration today reissued a revised decision with slight modifications. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has now, again, approved cyanide bomb use on public lands even though they inhumanely and indiscriminately kill thousands of animals every year and have a history of severely injuring people.

Rare Siberian Tiger cubs

A hidden camera at Land of the Leopard National Park in Russia showed three Siberian Tiger Cubs playing as they waited for their mother who was hunting. The three cubs are four months old which is the most playful age and when hunting skills begin to develop.

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Displaced Polar Bears – Russia

A visibly exhausted and starving polar bear wandered into a major Russian industrial city on Tuesday, hundreds of kilometres away from its natural habitat, as widespread wildfires rage across the Arctic Circle. The footage showed an emaciated polar bear in Norilsk, an industrial city in Siberia, located above the Arctic Circle. It is the first polar bear seen in the city in more than 40 years, according to local environmentalists.

Polar bears have increasingly been spotted far away from their natural sea-ice habitats as climate change pushes them further afield for food.

A polar bear was flown back to the northern arctic region of Chukotka in April by Russian authorities after it was found in a village around 700km away. Two months earlier, a Russian archipelago asked for help to tackle “a mass invasion of polar bears into inhabited areas.”

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Dolphin Deaths

More than 260 dolphins have become stranded since February on Gulf of Mexico beaches from Louisiana to the Florida panhandle.

The U.S. environment agency NOAA declared the marine mammal deaths an “unusual mortality event.” The agency says it is unclear what has caused the deaths, which are three times greater in number than average.

Some experts believe the deaths could be from the lingering effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Others think they are from changes in salinity due to river runoff, amplified by massive flooding upstream across the Midwest.

Global Warming

Warming oceans are killing dolphins – Study

Dolphins may be in serious trouble as temperatures rise with global warming.

After a heat wave struck the waters of Western Australia in 2011, scientists noticed that warmer ocean temperatures caused fewer dolphin births and decreased the animal’s survival rate.

The heat wave caused the water temperature of an area called Shark Bay to rise about 4 degrees above the annual average. After the heat wave, the survival rate for some species of dolphins fell by 12%, according to a study published Monday in the journal Current Biology. The dolphins also gave birth to fewer calves.

What worries the researchers is that this change in birth rate wasn’t only observed immediately after the year of the heat wave. They studied the dolphins that lived in Shark Bay between 2007 and 2017, and the decline in births lasted at least until 2017.

Canada warming at twice the rate of rest of world

Federal scientists and academics are warning that Canada’s climate is warming rapidly and faster than the global average, saying human behaviour must change to slow the shift.

Officials from Environment and Climate Change Canada presented the first study of its kind, titled Canada’s Changing Climate Report, on Monday.

The report says that Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and that Northern Canada is warming even more quickly, nearly three times the global rate. Three of the past five years have been the warmest on record, the authors said.


Dolphins – Health Sentinels

The brains of dead dolphins recently found stranded on the beaches of Florida and Massachusetts contained the same amyloid plaques responsible for Alzheimer’s disease in humans, along with toxic contamination.

Researchers from the University of Miami and other institutions detected an environmental toxin in the brains of the marine mammals that is produced by green algae blooms, which are becoming more common in coastal waters worldwide because of pollution runoff.

Since the dolphins are considered a “sentinel species” for toxic exposure in the ocean, the scientists warn that the toxins from the algae could be triggering the same plaque buildup and contamination in human brains.

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

From 1 through 28 February 2019, the National IHR Focal Point of Saudi Arabia reported 68 additional cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, including 10 deaths.

Ebola – DR Congo – Update

The ongoing Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces saw a rise in the number of new cases this past week. During the last 21 days (6 – 26 March), a total of 125 new cases were reported.

Cholera – Mozambique

Cholera cases in Mozambique among survivors of a devastating cyclone have shot up to 139, officials said, as nearly 1 million vaccine doses were rushed to the region and health workers desperately tried to improvise treatment space for victims. Cholera causes acute diarrhea, is spread by contaminated food and water and can kill within hours if not treated. The disease is a major concern for the hundreds of thousands of cyclone survivors in the southern African nation now living in squalid conditions in camps, schools or damaged homes.


Dolphin Shuts Down Beach in France

A sexually frustrated dolphin has closed down a beach in western France.

The 3-meter-long (10 feet) bottlenose dolphin, nicknamed Zafar by locals, started off as a friendly attraction in the Bay of Brest, according to The Telegraph. The bay had become the dolphin’s hangout of choice for the last couple of months, and he would often amuse people on boats by playing around them and would sometimes even let swimmers hold on to his fin and swim with him.

But lately, the dolphin has developed a habit of rubbing up against both people and boats, a sign that he may be in search of, well, sex. He also lifted one woman into the air with his nose, and, in another case, refused to let a swimmer go back to shore. (That swimmer had to be rescued.)

Zafar’s behavior got so bad that the mayor of one of the bayside towns, Landévennec, issued a bylaw banning swimming and diving whenever Zafar’s presence is confirmed.

Dolphins are known to have recreational sex with other dolphins throughout the year and don’t have specific time points for mating. But sometimes that sexual energy is directed toward other species, including humans.

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Dolphin Bonding

A new study reveals that male bottlenose dolphins communicate by calling on their bros by name.

The University of Western Australia study found that dolphins use signature whistles for each other, and are the only animals besides humans to adopt names.

Researcher Stephanie King says that using individual names helps the dolphins negotiate a complex social network of relationships.

The study also revealed the male dolphins spend a lot of time caressing each other with their pectoral fins, as if they are holding hands.


Oceanic Heat Wave

Tropical fish from off northeastern Australia have been spotted around parts of New Zealand, lured across the Tasman Sea by a record-breaking hot summer season.

The country’s unusual warmth was largely generated by what meteorologists term a “marine heat wave,” which has seen water temperatures nearly 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

The rare appearance of the Queensland groper, also known as the giant grouper, has startled New Zealand divers, who fear the fish won’t survive once temperatures cool to near normal.


Happy Captives?

A controversial study suggests captive dolphins can be as “happy” as those swimming free in the wild, and also appear to look forward to human interaction.

French researchers played specific sounds before offering the dolphins different things to do, such as playing with new toys, interacting with a human or being left to do as they pleased. The marine mammals would clearly bob their heads out of the water when they anticipated a human was coming.

The scientists conclude this means the dolphins become excited when offered the chance to connect with their human trainers.


EU to ban bee-killing pesticides

EU countries voted on Friday for a near-total ban on insecticides blamed for killing off bee populations, in what campaigners called a “beacon of hope” for the winged insects.

Bees help pollinate 90 percent of the world’s major crops, but in recent years have been dying off from “colony collapse disorder,” a mysterious scourge blamed on mites, pesticides, virus, fungus, or a combination of these factors.

The 28 European Union member states approved a ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides after the European food safety agency said in February that must uses of the chemicals posed a risk to honey bees and wild bees.

Dolphins Compete for Fish

Damage to fishing nets caused by dolphins is increasing across the Mediterranean as overfishing forces the marine mammals to compete more with humans for seafood.

Damage to the typically small-scale fishing businesses are now costing thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars per year, according to University of Exeter researchers.

Acoustic “pingers” used in an attempt to deter dolphins haven’t worked, and may have acted as “dinner bells” that actually attracted the ocean animals in some cases, the researchers found.


Ganga River Dolphins

Gangetic river dolphins, primarily found in the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers and their tributaries in Bangladesh, India and Nepal, are categorised under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and have been placed on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which signifies that the species is on the verge of extinction. These dolphins are one of the three surviving freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other two are found in the Indus in Pakistan and the Amazon in South America. A fourth species, the Yangtze river dolphin in China, has gone extinct.

The Gangetic river species are blind and find their way and prey in the river waters through sonar echoes. They live by echolocation and sound is everything to them. They navigate, feed, flee from danger, find mates, breed, nurse babies and play by echolocation alone.

The Gangetic river dolphins are being pushed to extinction due to increased pollution, decreased water flow and shrinking fish populations in the Ganga.

The already endangered Gangetic river dolphins are facing a clear and present danger from climate change, which has adversely affected their habitat. With their population registering a steady decline, the Gangetic dolphins in different parts of the eastern state of Bihar are now fighting for survival. Climate change has impacted the population of fish in the river, thus reducing the food supply of the dolphins.



A Last Resort

Mexican officials announced that they will enlist mine-hunting dolphins trained by the U.S. Navy to help save the last few remaining vaquita marina porpoises still living in the northern Gulf of California.

Only about 30 of the world’s smallest porpoises are believed to have survived the gill nets illegally used to catch prized totoaba fish. The totoaba’s swim bladder can fetch $20,000 per kilogram in China for use in a soup believed to increase fertility.

The Navy dolphins will join boats and aircraft to track down the vaquitas and herd them for relocation to a large pen. Conservationists then plan to breed them and increase their population, but such a technique has yet to be proven effective.


Whale ‘Scratchathon’

A leading British marine biologist says that he has found that sperm whales gather in groups as large as 70 to engage in a mass “scratchathon,” during which they exfoliate their outer skin.

Luke Rendell of the University of St. Andrews was studying the social life of the whales when he made the discovery.

“The shedding of skin is part of a natural antifouling mechanism to stop them being encrusted with other marine animals and parasites.” said Rendell. New Scientist reports he found that the whales “love touching against each other,” and can engage in the group grooming and frolicking for hours or days at a time.

On the Brink

No more than 30 miniature porpoises with cartoon like features are left in the northern Gulf of California, where experts are now considering keeping some in sea pens to prevent the marine mammals from going extinct.

Since 2011, 90 percent of the snub-nosed vaquita population has fallen victim to Asian appetites for an endangered fish called the totoaba, which swim in the same Mexican waters.

The porpoises get trapped and drowned in the curtains of illegal gill nets set to catch the totoaba, which can earn Chinese restaurants thousands of dollars each.


Vampire Bats get Human Appetite

Vampire bats in northeastern Brazil have been feasting on the blood of humans at night in a significant shift of diet away from the flying mammal’s typical menu of blood from birds.

DNA analysis of vampire bat excrement collected around Catimbau National Park revealed traces of blood from both humans and domestic chickens.

Encroachment by humans into vampire bat habitats, and the destruction of bird habitats through deforestation, could be causing a rapid evolutionary change that is driving the bats to feed on humans to survive.

Dolphin Deaths

At least 82 dolphins known as false killer whales died after mysteriously becoming stranded along the coast of South Florida, USA. Thirteen others are missing after being spotted off Everglades National Park.

It was the largest number of fatalities for the species ever observed between Key West and Tampa Bay.


Dolphin dies after it’s passed around for selfies

An endangered baby dolphin was killed on a beach in Argentina last week after the animal was plucked from the water and passed around by beachgoers for petting and photos.

The incident, which took place at the beach resort town of Santa Teresita, has drawn wide condemnation from animal lovers and activists.

La Plata dolphins – also known as Franciscana dolphins – are only found in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, and fewer than 30 000 of them remain in the wild.

Video footage of last week’s incident shows the animal being scooped up by a man and quickly surrounded by a curious mob eager to touch the animal.

The miniature dolphin, no more than a few feet long, is eventually left to die in the mud, where it can be seen lying motionless.

At no point in the footage does it appear that anyone in the crowd intervened or attempted to return the animal to the water.



Oil Spill Aftermath: Dolphins Still Affected

Bottlenose dolphins swimming in waters affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are dying earlier and birthing fewer calves than dolphins living in other areas, a new study shows.

Just 20 percent of pregnant dolphins in Barataria Bay — a part of the Gulf of Mexico that was most heavily tainted by oil from the spill — gave birth to surviving calves, much lower than the 83 percent success rate in other dolphin populations, the researchers found.

In addition, just 86.8 percent of the Barataria Bay dolphins survive every year. In comparison, this “annual survival rate” is 95.1 percent for dolphins near Charleston, South Carolina, and 96.2 percent for dolphins in Florida’s Sarasota Bay, the researchers said.

“This dolphin population, as well as other dolphin and whale populations that were exposed to the DeepwaterHorizon oil, will take a long time to recover,” saidstudy lead investigator Lori Schwacke, a wildlife epidemiologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The researchers followed the dolphins for nearly four years (47 months), and found that the dolphins in Barataria Bay had an approximately 60 percent lower pregnancy success rate compared with dolphins at a reference site, Schwacke said. What’s more, 57 percent of the pregnant females that did not successfully have calves were sick with moderate to severe lung disease.

A female dolphin known as Y01 pushing a dead calf in waters affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This behavior is sometimes seen in females when their newborn calves do not survive.

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Stranded whales euthanised

Several pilot whales which stranded on Stewart Island had to be put down to minimise their suffering. The pod, made up of 29 pilot whales, was found stranded at Doughboy Bay on Tuesday by a pair of trampers and it was another two days before they could raise the alarm via a water taxi due to the remote location.

Two Department of Conservation staff flew to the bay to assess the situation and found just eight of the whales still alive. Stewart Island ranger Phred Dobbins said the decision had to be made to euthanise them. “Refloating them was not an option given the length of time they had been stranded in hot, dry conditions,” he said. “With the tide well out, we saw little hope of keeping the animals alive until enough rescuers could be flown in to assist.”

The whales will be left to decompose naturally on the beach and visitors are advised to avoid the area and avoid swimming near them.

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Slaughter of Dolphins in Japan’s ‘Cove’ Resumes

The Japanese village made notorious for its dolphin slaughter in the award-winning film “The Cove” has begun its annual killing season of the marine mammals, according to the conservation group Sea Shepherd.

The environmental activist group webcast live images of the hunt in Taiji Bay, southwest Japan, and provided text updates via social media.

On Twitter, @CoveGuardians said: “First dolphin murder of the drive hunt season is complete as dead bodies are dragged to Taiji butcherhouse.”

While the slaughter has brought international condemnation, Japan argues the dolphins are not endangered and points to the much larger number of cows, pigs and sheep butchered for food around the world.

Sea Shepherd counters that dolphin meat is not in high demand and contains dangerous levels of mercury.