Missing J-Pod Calf Presumed Dead

February 29, 2016

Amid a baby boom for Puget Sound’s resident orcas, one of the new calves is missing and presumed dead.

The Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island says the calf, a member of J-pod (J-55) was first documented January 18th but it wasn’t seen when other close family members were seen the next day.

Source: Associated Press

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Minke whales are predominant prey of killer whales in Northwest Atlantic

2/22/2016

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Tara Stevens, who is finishing her doctorate at the University of Rode Island, has been studying the estimated 200 killer whales believed to live around the area of Newfoundland.

During her study she found that Minke whales seem to be the predominant prey of this population. Killer whales subdue the larger animal by attempting to drown it. 10 – 20 killer whales will be jumping on a minke whale’s back in an attempt to force it underwater.

Her study indicates that they don’t hunt exclusively on Mine whale though as they have been seen taking dolphins, porpoises and seals. Though it is possible they also take fish, some whales have been seen to take halibut and tuna off of longlines. When the tuna fishery was going strong in the Gulf of Maine killer whales regularly took tuna off longlines, but after the fishery crashed the fishermen didn’t see killer whales any more. The killer whales might have left or switched food sources.

It is too early to determine if there are multiple ecotypes in area (prey specialists) but Stevens believes that the killer whale’s movements are based on following prey. Some killer whales that stay in Newfoundland and Labrador year round have been seen in pack ice feeding on breeding seals.

Source: https://whalesandmarinefauna.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/minke-whales-are-predominant-prey-of-killer-whales-in-northwest-atlantic/

SeaWorld San Diego plans to add a major aquarium-based attraction

As attendance continues to slump SeaWorld San Diego announces a new ride/attraction in order to try and boost attendance at the park. This ride is going to use a “significant” portion of the budget that had been set aside for the expansion of the orca tanks.
Source: LATimes

Strait of Gibraltar’s killer whales are ‘unique’

February 17, 2016

Strait’s killer whales are ‘unique’

Killer whales in the Strait of Gibraltar are socially, genetically and ecologically distinct from other groups in the north Atlantic and Canaries, according to a new scientific study.

Until now, orcas in the strait had been regarded as belonging to the same social group as those around the Canary Islands.

But the new research has established that none of the strait’s resident orcas has been spotted in the Canaries, or vice versa, meaning there is no interaction between the groups.

Based on detailed study of skin and fat samples, the scientists have also established that orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar do not share the same genes or even diet as other groups in Spain or Europe.

“The orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar are unique, they are isolated and bear different characteristics to orcas in the rest of Spain and the European continent,” said Spanish cetacean conservation group CIRCE.

Source: chronicle.gi

Scientists examine the ‘evolutionary paradox’ of menopause in mammals like killer whales and humans

February 17, 2016

Scientists are studying why females from a handful of species -- including killer whales -- continue to live well beyond the age when they can bear offspring (AFP Photo/Valery Hache)

Menopause in women and females from a few other “higher” species is probably a fluke of nature rather than evolution at work, according to a study published Wednesday.

Biologists have long puzzled over why women lose the capacity to reproduce during roughly the last third of their lives. . ..

“Menopause is an evolutionary paradox,” said Hazel Nichols, a biologist at Liverpool John Moores University and lead author of the study.

“An early end to reproduction seems contrary to the laws of natural selection, where passing on genes to the next generation is the main purpose of life.”

In most mammals, she pointed out, females reproduce until a ripe old age.

Evolutionary biologists have put forward competing explanations for this extended “post-reproductive lifespan,” or PRLS.

The “grandmother hypothesis” suggests women outlive their fertility in order to help raise grandchildren, thereby strengthening the likelihood that their own genes will survive.

In this scenario, “grandmothers… encouraging their sons to have more children” are driven by a biological imperative, Nichols told AFP.

Even among orcas, scientists have shown that females remain with their male offspring, and probably teach them hunting techniques and where to apply them.

– Evolutionary tinkering –

Another theory says that menopause does not, in fact, confer any advantage in the Darwinian struggle to pass on genes from one generation to the next, but is just an accident resulting in a “mismatch” in the ageing process.

“Different parts of the body are likely to age at different rates, in the same way that some part of a car wear out before others,” Nichols said.

In this argument, modern medicine and nutrition has helped outpace the evolutionary process, extending human life beyond its “natural” limits.

To find out who might be right, Nichols and colleagues examined data from 26 different mammal species, including three tribal or historical human populations. . . .

To finish reading the rest of the article go here

Dead Orca Calf Found at Sylt beach, Germany

February 8, 2016

<p>Schwertwale sind in der Nordsee eigentlich weiter im Norden zu Hause.</p>

On Monday morning, has been located at the beach Rantumer a dead, around 2.5 meters long whale. In the animal with its distinctive drawing is most probably a young orca, and Silke Lieser, diploma biologist of the adventure center of nature in List. “It’s an orca,” confirmed Thomas seal hunters Diedrichsen. In recent weeks there have been several whale standings on the North Coast.  These were, however, two sperm whales. The animal will now be transported to the Institute of Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research in Busum. There obduzieren veterinarians the animal, “to raise the biological data and to assess the state of health” as Institute director Ursula Siebert explained on request of Sylter Rundschau. That is really is a killer whale in the animal, it would not confirm. so far, they’ve finally seen only photographs of the dead whale. “It would be a very rare find in Schleswig-Holstein waters,” said Siebert.

This post has been translated from source: www.shz.dewww.shz.de

Are SeaWorld’s Orca better off in their concrete tanks?

An orca at Sea World

The article outlines both the captive and anti-captive views with regards to getting killer whales out of concrete tanks and into netted pens in natural water and surroundings.

Proponents of captivity say that placing animals in pens exposes them to unnecessarily risks such as environmental hazards, toxins, and viruses.

While activists say the largest obstacle is money and the will to do so.

Source: LAtimes.com

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For my part I have to admit, the captive industry isn’t wrong. There are inherent risks with putting any animal into a more natural setting, but isn’t it worth the risk? The claim that there would be too many uncontrollable factors if captive whales were to be put in pens. They’re not wrong, but so what?
Killer whales are highly intelligent creatures and many of the harmful stereotypical behaviors activists rage about are due in large part to boredom.

Over the years zoos have done a phenomenal job of moving away from cages made of concrete slabs and surrounded by iron bars. Now zoos work hard to give their animals enclosures that are as close to wild conditions as is possible to do (at respected zoos at least, let’s not lump all zoos together shall we. There are some truly horrendous establishments out there). Attention is now also being paid just as much on the animal’s mental health as it is their physical health. Daily enrichment is now a requirement of any reputable AZA member zoo. Puzzle feeders are given to primates, prey scents used to make trails for carnivores to follow. And conditions continue to improve year by year.

Most aquariums on the other hand have lagged FAR behind this standard, even the ones belonging to AZA. Living conditions are still the equivalent of concrete slabs and iron bars. Yes making cetacean living conditions more natural comes with risk. You want to make a chimpanzee happy build him a three story jungle gym with plenty of places to climb and get up high just as they would in the wild. Is there a risk of that same chimp falling from the tall enclosure and hurting themselves, yes. But isn’t that risk an acceptable risk in order to greatly improve their quality of life?

One of the most common arguments I hear from captivity proponents is that captive born animals can’t handle the bacteria and viruses that are present in the wild, that their immune systems just aren’t up to it because they have been in a sterile environment all their lives. Sorry but I just don’t see the logic. Keiko was taken from his home at the age of 2 and placed in a sterile concrete environment for all that time. If captive advocates are right then the 16 years he spent before being moved to Iceland were enough to weaken his immune system as much as the captive born. And with such a weak immune system he should have developed an infection and died shortly after being put into the enclosed pen, with natural salt water running through, with all its inherent dangers. Instead he not only survived but thrived. They say it was over an hour before keiko responded to calls after being put in the pen, he was too busy checking everything out, too many new sights, smells and sounds.

There are even captive facilities out there now, housing bottlenose dolphins, that have their animals in netted pens or enclosed lagoons instead of concrete tanks. The risks are there, but they are minimal compared to gain in their quality of life!

SeaWorld’s Corporate Culture

Friday, December 11, 2015

More details emerge about Seaworld’s corporate culture. An account published in the Dodo by a former maintenance diver Sarah Fischbeck. She confirms claims by other former Seaworld employees about how the animals are managed and how staff are treated.

  • Trainers have little to no input on decisions made about the animals under their care. Breeding, social structure etc are all choices made my cooperate executives who have no interaction with the animals day to day.
  • People are chosen to be trainers based on looks and who fit the cooperate model of ‘show physique’ rather than being chosen for the position based on training and educational background.
  • Employees who spoke out about conditions were retaliated against or even fired
Source: The Dodo