Monday, June 27, 2011

Dolphins Do Double Freqs.

Yikes! Science Daily reports that researchers from Sweden and the US have discovered that dolphins and porpoises are capable of sending out high-frequency sound, or ultrasound, at two different frequencies at the same time (see reference below). Dr. Josefin Starkhammar is an obviously brilliant newly minted PhD in Electrical Measurements at Lund University. She developed a device with 47 hydrophones that facilitated this incredible discovery. (She also has a Master's degree in Engineering Physics). She states that this dual echolocation ability enables dolphins to better locate objects. I suspect that there is much more to it than simply finding their dinner, and Dr. Starkhammer admits that "...we humans have a lot to learn from dolphins." Notwithstanding her appropriately objective understatement, it is exciting to see that science continues to push the boundaries of our understanding of these remarkable beings. Someday we might even learn their language and who knows what they will be able to teach us then! I bet they won't make us perform stupid people tricks...

Reference: Lund University (2011, June 8). Dolphins use double sonar: Researchers discover that dolphins can generate two sound beam projections simultaneously. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 26, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/06/110607112338.htm

Monday, June 20, 2011

Seas Run Red with Blood Again

Just when we thought that the great whales were safe from the exploding harpoons and long knives of Japanese 'research' ships, death stalks them on the high seas once more. This time it is in the Pacific not the Southern Ocean where many will die a gruesome and violent death. The Japanese whaling fleet cut its 2010-2011 season short in February after slaughtering 172 whales, 20% of their normal kill. This was mainly due to the continuing efforts of Paul Watson and the members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society; intrepid sailors who risk their lives to harass the whalers. It was a short-lived victory. Last week, Japan announced that it has sent out its whaling fleet to the northwest Pacific to kill another 260 whales for 'scientific research' purposes.

As this blog has noted many times before, this mindless slaughter will continue unabated in the face of worldwide condemnation; not because there is a commercial use for whale meat or any scientific value in butchering whales; there is none for either. It is because the conflict has devolved into what the Japanese government sees as an imperialistic assault upon their culture. And until the good and decent people of Japan demand that their government put an end to this barbaric practice, no amount of pleading, cajoling, or threatening by foreigners will stop the killing.
And so it is that the seas will once again run red with the blood of these magnificent, sentient, and intelligent beings.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Orcas In Death Row Cells

As reported by Margaret Munro of Post Media News, in late 2009 a Canadian biologist was able to place a satellite tracking device on the dorsal fin of an Orca off the Admiralty Island in the Canadian Arctic. That autumn, the Orca was tracked as it swam from the Arctic to the Azores in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a distance of 5,400 kilometres. Similarly, Killer Whales in the Pacific have been known to swim from Alaska to California. These impressive journeys are an indication of the freedom of the seas that Orcas in the wild enjoy.

In stark contrast, the show tank in which SeaWorld Orlando makes its Orcas perform stupid animal tricks measures approximately 45 metres across. And the tanks where they keep these huge members of the dolphin family when they are not performing are less than half that size, some even smaller. SeaWorld will tell you that these tanks exceed the minimum requirement set by the USDA, which is 14.6 metres (as if that is something to be proud of). Tillikum, the adult male Orca who killed his trainer last year at SeaWorld Orlando, and who had been implicated earlier in the deaths of two other humans, is 7 metres in length: how long do you think it takes him to reach the far side of his tank? Could this be a factor in his mental torment and lethal behavior?

Ironically, it is interesting to note that the government's space requirement for captive Orcas is proportionately the same as the penal system allots to prisoners on death row. To keep these magnificent, intelligent, and sentient beings in tiny concrete prison cells constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and should be banned. Unless and until the government does something about it, you can help by boycotting SeaWorld Orlando, and all other parks like it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

No Chance To Say GoodBye

It has only been five years since the Australian Snubfin Dolphin was recognized as a separate species but the government's Threatened Species Scientific Committee is concerned that the Snubfin is on the verge of extinction. Found exclusively in the coastal waters off Northern Australia, it is only two meters in length with brown coloring on top, lighter brown on the sides, and a white belly. It has a bulbous head with a flexible neck and a small, snubby dorsal fin that is the reason for the name that we humans have given it. By their appearance and behavior, they are very appealing little beings and for those of you who have read The Tempest's Roar, I am certain that Pan would have loved knowing them. But before Pan or any of us ever get that opportunity, they will likely vanish forever. And we won't even get a chance to say goodbye...