Archive | May 2012

Feeding Wild Dolphins=Illegal


Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, it’s illegal to feed wild dolphins in US waters (photo is a screen from a youtube video of a tourist feeding a wild dolphin in Georgia)

With summer being around the horizon, I know that a lot of people will likely be visiting coastal areas for their vacation which also means for boat-goers it means that it’s a time to take that boat out to water to enjoy the beauty of nature. Some of these boat-goers will likely be wanting to see some marine life in their natural habitat and from my experience of seeing marine life out in the wild, it’s truly magical to see humpbacks breaching, or manatees coming right up to boat out of curiosity, or the sight of a pod of wild dolphins swimming passed your boat. However, some people love wildlife so much that they often go a little too far, and that does include feeding wild dolphins sadly. In the United States alone, it’s illegal to feed wild dolphins in US waters under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a law that bans any disturbance of any wild marine mammal in American territorial waters. It also defines harassment as any act of unlawful pursuit, torment, or annoyance that may cause potential harm marine mammals in the wild by causing disruption of behavioral patterns such as feeding, migration, breeding, nursing, breathing, and sheltering.

Feeding wild dolphins can be very harmful to them on every level because their behavior will change from being hunters to becoming beggars once humans start feeding them. Studies that have been done on beggar dolphins for decades have shown that wild dolphin pods that receive handouts from humans were more likely to be unwilling to hunt for their own food because they have been used to receiving handouts. To make matters worse, it has also been known to cause a huge high in juvenile mortality rates for the young animals were never properly taught by their mothers how to hunt, which has made them at risk of predation by sharks and killer whales. In addition, reports from NOAA have shown that beggar dolphins have been known to become very aggressive towards people who had no handouts left for them while there’s evidence of them trying to steal fish off of fishing lines after they have learned to receive food from people.

Remember, feeding wild dolphins is such a huge offense that it’s a $20,000 fine or a year in jail and if you see someone trying to feed a wild dolphin, please report it to NOAA officals right away at 1-800-853-1964.

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Moko: A New Zealand Icon


Moko was a well known wild-friendly dolphin who was known to interact with beach goers in New Zealand. (Photo by Johannes Okubo)

Moko was juvenile male Pacific bottlenose dolphin who was known to be very friendly around humans off the coast of New Zealand. Born around 2006, he had associate with humans on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island for three years. While little is known about his early life before his association with people, we can assume that first year of life, Moko was likely in the presernce of his mother and birth pod. Normally, most young dolphins will stay with their mothers until they are at least six years old, but Moko was a year old when he was sighted alone in New Zealand’s Mahia Beach where his interactions with humans began.

Moko first made international headlines in March 2008 when he was seen helping two pygmy sperm whales, a mother and her calf, back out to sea after they got trapped between a sandbar and the beach where they stranded. The two animals were found by a local man who told his neighbors and a department of conservation worker before they spent nearly two hours trying to refloat them with no success. However, just as the group was about the make the decision to euthanize the mother-and-calf pair, Moko apporached the distressed whales and led them through a narrow of channel that eventually led them back out to sea.

During his time in Mahia, Moko became known as an international celebrity with a reputation for interacting with beach goers. (Screenshot from 3News New Zealand documentary, “Loved to Death: Moko the Dolphin’s Story”)

After word went out about Moko’s heroric rescue efforts on two pygmy sperm whales, beach goers began to interact with him in the water. It all started when a local woman named Kristie Carrington started looking after Moko after she got in the water with him for the first time, over time, she and Moko started to form a bond together. As word on Carrington’s encounters with Moko was out, many people wanted to have that same chance to encounter him as she did. So, she would start allowing a small group of people interact with him in the water during their time at Mahia Beach. For Carrington herself, she saw that Moko’s interactions with human swimmers was beneficial for him even though there were dangerous risks that were involved. For example, there had been a number of reports of Moko getting aggressive towards swimmers on numerous occasions, which is not uncommon in wild-friendly dolphins. In addition, there has been at least one report of a woman in the Bay of Pleanty hitting Moko with a canoe oar. As a result, marine biologists began to become concern about his welfare which was followed by a study in which he was found to have had scars from boats and a fish hook. A number of organizations have tried to inform the New Zealand public to give animal space in all hopes he would reunite with his own kind one day.

Sadly, on July 7th, 2010, Moko was found dead in Matakana Island, New Zealand. Although his cause of death is unkown, some experts believe that he likely died from drowning in set nets. He would go on to become the 15th known wild-friendly dolphin to have either died or injured as a result of human interactions. After his necropsy, Moko was buried under Maori tradition on the same island where his body was found.  Since his death,  he had been declared as one of Time Magazine’s top ten heroic animals and his life has been the subject of a TV documentary in New Zealand.

 

Sea Turtle Nesting Season Is In the Air


Every year from April through October, hundreds of thousands of sea turtles nest on beaches across the southeastern United States from South Carolina to Texas. (Photo by the Fish and Wildlife Service).

The summer season can mean a lot to many people. For school children of all ages, it means summer vacation and a week or two at camp while for some college students, it means either having a summer job or hacing an internship, and for the adults, summer means backyard cleaning and back-to-school shopping for the kids. For sea turtles, however, the summer season means that it’s nesting season because from April through October, thousands of female sea turtles will come to shore on the beaches of the Southeastern United States to lay their eggs with the peak season being in late June and early July for loggerheads. During the night, females will leave the water and crawl up the beach where they will start digging an egg chamber cavity for their eggs before the egg-laying process begins. On average, female sea turtles will lay up to 100 golfball-sized eggs . Once the ggs are laid, the females will then gentely cover the nest with sand before returning to ocean since they do not raise their hatchlings. The hatchlings will develop in the eggs for the next 44-55 days while the sand temperature will determine their gender. If the sand temperature is too warm, then, the hatchlings will be all females while the cooler sand temperature will make all the hatchlings males.  Once the eggs are fully incubated, they will hatch and the hatchlings will emerge from the nest in mass numbers as they make their way into the ocean. However, only 1 in 4,000 sea turtle hatchlings will survive into adulthood and if they do, female hatchlings will return to the same beach where they were born 12-20 years later while their brothers will remain at sea for the reat of their lives.

While watching a sea turtle lay her eggs on a beach is an amazing site to see, it’s very important that such observation has to be done in a very responsible manner. This is because many times when beach goers try to observe a nesting sea turtle, it often results in the female making a false crawl, due to the use of lights that the beach goers use to help them find their way around at night, and you should never ever have a light on you when observing nesting females on a beach. Still, here are some ways you can observe nesting sea turtles without disturbing them.

  • Turn off the lights because both adults and hatchlings rely on the light and reflections of the moon to find their way to the beach and back out to sea. Artifical lights can put sea turtles in dangerous sitiuations, many of which can lead to death.
  • Limit noise by using only soft voices so it would not be disturbing for the nesting turtles.
  • Be sure you give sea turtles the proper amount of space before and after they lay their eggs. When a turtle does begin the egg-laying process, she may be apporached or viewed more easily.
  • Do not take flash photographs, only take flash-free photos from behind the turtle as she lays her eggs.
  • Please do not litter on the beaches because both adults and hatchlings can get either trapped or entangled in the rubbish.

I hope these turtle viewing tips will help observe sea turtles during the nesting season and I hope you get the chance to see a nesting turtle.

Have a great evening everyone,

~Jenna~