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Entries in Dolphins (3)

Wednesday
Mar132013

‘Killer’ Military Dolphins Go AWOL for Love? Maybe Not

U.S. Navy(NEW YORK) -- Ukrainian officials are reportedly denying a Russian state news story that alleges three of its military-trained dolphins went AWOL during a training exercise in Crimea earlier this month.

Russia’s RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday that the rogue pod simply never returned from a training exercise and said an expert speculated the underwater mammals probably went in search of mates.  The report cited Ukrainian media as the basis for the story, but also noted that Ukraine’s Defense Ministry denied the incident.

After the RIA Novosti story was picked up by international outlets, including several in the U.S., Ukrainian media reported that officials there said the story was “absolutely fabricated.”  One Russian news report said that the document upon which the original stories were based was a low-quality forgery, as The Week pointed out.

That isn’t to say that some militaries do not use the adorable marine animals for life-and-death military matters.  As ABC News has reported, the U.S. Navy has used bottle-nosed dolphins to detect mines and enemy divers.

In his memoir The Red Circle, former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb described killer dolphin-evasion as part of his diver training.

“They train these animals to track down enemy divers, outfitting them with a device strapped to onto the head that contains a compressed gas needle.  Once the dolphin has tracked you down, it butts you; the needle shoots out and pokes you, creating an embolism.  Within moments, you’re dead,” Webb wrote.  “We could tell when those little b******s were approaching because we could hear their sonar clicking -- but that didn’t make it any easier to escape them… [they're] way too fast for us or any other human being to outrun them.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep262012

Dolphins Frolic with Surfers at Sydney’s Bondi Beach

Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte(SYDNEY) -- You’ve heard of swimming with the dolphins, but how about surfing with the friendly mammals, right in the middle of them?

That’s what a group of surfers who dove into the waters off Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach experienced Tuesday when a pod of dolphins swam right into their surfing lesson.

In addition to crashing waves, the nearly dozen surfers found themselves surrounded by a pod of crashing dolphins. The dolphins, estimated to number as many as 50, showed their human counterparts just how surfing is done, jumping in and out of the waves, no surfboards needed.

Dolphins are a common sight on Sydney’s beaches, where they swim close to the shore in search of small fish, according to the Australian government’s department of environment.  Last month, a pod of about seven dolphins was spotted alongside surfers at nearby Bronte Beach.

While known as popular tourist spots, Bondi and Bronte Beaches are also known as prime spots for dolphin and whale sighting, particularly between June and August, Australia’s winter months.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May142012

Pacific Mystery: What's Killing Dolphins, Pelicans in Peru?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Just what is killing dolphins and pelicans in Peru?

It's been a mystery for months on the Pacific coast of the South American country, where the local government says it has found 900 dolphin carcasses and approximately 4,500 pelicans.  It's been bad enough that Peru's health ministry ordered 1,500 miles of beaches closed.

Scientists from around the world have been watching the problem.  People in the area say the government has been slow to take up the bodies, and slower to solve the puzzle.

Every group has its own explanation for the animal deaths:

-- The government has said the dolphins died of disease.

-- Environmental groups say dolphins' inner ears were literally fractured by seismic blasts set off by U.S. oil prospectors: "The ears were soaked in blood.  That's not normal when you examine a bone," said Dr. Carlos Yaipen-Llanos, president of the activist group Orca.

-- Other scientists wondered about agricultural runoff or heavy metals from mining near rivers, though the Peruvian Sea Institute said it did not find unusual chemical concentrations in animals it autopsied.

Actually, more than one argument may be right; some biologists say the dolphins and the birds probably died for different reasons.  But the theory that's been gaining the most traction in recent days involves the global climate.

Remember the El Niño phenomenon?  An El Niño is a giant patch of warm water, thousands of miles long, that periodically appears along the equator in the Pacific.  It alternates with a La Niña -- a patch of unusually cold water.  They are large enough to alter weather patterns around the world. During El Niño periods, for instance, jet streams, picking up energy from the steamy Pacific, can tear apart hurricanes in the Atlantic.

The Pacific has just moved from a La Niña period -- cold water on the equator -- to a relatively neutral phase, but it did it unusually quickly, and that got meteorologists thinking.

"It's pretty warm out there," said Jim Andrews, an operational meteorologist at AccuWeather, the Pennsylvania-based private weather forecasting service.  "I'm not a biologist, so I can't draw a straight line from the ocean temperature to the birds' deaths.  But I wanted to offer the possibility that there's a connection."

Off the Peruvian coast, where it is now autumn, ocean temperatures have been reported to be 10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for this time of year.  Sea animals can survive that -- but some have trouble adjusting.

Several biologists have suggested that because of the temperature change, anchovetas (a type of anchovy) have been moving into deeper water to stay cool.  That's fine for them, but they're a dietary staple of pelicans, who can no longer dive down far enough to reach them for food.

Carlos Bocanegra, a biologist at the National University of Trujillo, said he did analyses of 10 young dying pelicans, and found their digestive tracts were either empty or contained fish the pelicans don't normally eat.

The theory holds water because pelican die-offs have happened before.  Andrews said that in 1997, just as an El Niño period began, there was a major die-off.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio