Morgan and her calf have been reunited

September 27, 2018

Announcement from the Loro Parque Blog:

Nothing matters more to us than the health and wellbeing of the animals in our care. As we updated earlier this week, a team of veterinarians and external consultants has been monitoring the progress of Morgan and her calf around the clock since birth.

The primary focus during these crucial first days has been ensuring the calf is getting all the nourishment it needs. While natural breastfeeding is always the preferred option, Morgan’s milk production has been below what is needed in these first few days. Therefore, the veterinary team has assisted by temporarily bottle feeding the calf while giving Morgan the chance to increase her milk supply.

We are glad to say that mother and calf have now resumed natural breastfeeding and the experts are pleased with the strong bond the pair have developed. With the help of our state-of-the-art facilities and assistance from world-leading experts, the team continues to closely observe the situation to ensure that Morgan and her baby establish a good, healthy and natural feeding routine. However, we are, of course, ready to step in to help if there is the slightest concern that the calf’s nutritional needs are not being met.

We wish to thank everyone who has been in contact with us in these past few days and have been touched by the many messages of support. We will keep you posted with all the latest information as things unfold.

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Orca ‘apocalypse’: half of killer whales doomed to die from pollution

September 27, 2018

At least half of the world’s killer whale populations are doomed to extinction due to toxic and persistent pollution of the oceans, according to a major new study.

Although the poisonous chemicals, PCBs, have been banned for decades, they are still leaking into the seas. They become concentrated up the food chain; as a result, killer whales, the top predators, are the most contaminated animals on the planet. Worse, their fat-rich milk passes on very high doses to their newborn calves.

PCB concentrations found in killer whales can be 100 times safe levels and severely damage reproductive organs, cause cancer and damage the immune system. The new research analysed the prospects for killer whale populations over the next century and found those offshore from industrialised nations could vanish as soon as 30-50 years.

Among those most at risk are the UK’s last pod, where a recent death revealed one of the highest PCB levels ever recorded. Others off Gibraltar, Japan and Brazil and in the north-east Pacific are also in great danger. Killer whales are one of the most widespread mammals on earth but have already been lost in the North Sea, around Spain and many other places.

“It is like a killer whale apocalypse,” said Paul Jepson at the Zoological Society of London, part of the international research team behind the new study. “Even in a pristine condition they are very slow to reproduce.” Healthy killer whales take 20 years to reach peak sexual maturity and 18 months to gestate a calf.

PCBs were used around the world since the 1930s in electrical components, plastics and paints but their toxicity has been known for 50 years. They were banned by nations in the 1970s and 1980s but 80% of the 1m tonnes produced have yet to be destroyed and are still leaking into the seas from landfills and other sources.

The international Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants came into force in 2004 to tackle the issue, but Jepson said the clean-up is way behind schedule. “I think the Stockholm Convention is failing,” he said. “The only area where I am optimistic is the US. They alone produced 50% of all PCBs, but they have been getting PCB levels down consistently for decades. All we have done in Europe is ban them and then hope they go away.”

The researchers said PCBs are just one pollutant found in killer whales, with “a long list of additional known and as yet unmeasured contaminants present”. Further problems for killer whales include the loss of key prey species such as tuna and sharks to overfishing and also growing underwater noise pollution.

The new research, published in the journal Science, examined PCB contamination in 351 killer whales, the largest analysis yet. The scientists then took existing data on how PCBs affect calf survival and immune systems in whales and used this to model how populations will fare in the future. “Populations of Japan, Brazil, Northeast Pacific, Strait of Gibraltar, and the United Kingdom are all tending toward complete collapse,” they concluded.

Lucy Babey, deputy director at conservation group Orca, said: “Our abysmal failures to control chemical pollution ending up in our oceans has caused a killer whale catastrophe on an epic scale. It is essential that requirements to dispose safely of PCBs under the Stockholm Convention are made legally binding at the next meeting in May 2019 to help stop this scandal.” Scientists have previously found “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution even in the 10km-deep Mariana trench in the Pacific Ocean.

“This new study is a global red alert on the state of our oceans,” said Jennifer Lonsdale, chair of the Wildlife and Countryside Link’s whales group. “If the UK government wants its [proposed] Environment Act to be world-leading, it must set ambitious targets on PCB disposal and protect against further chemical pollution of our waters.”

The research shows that killer whale populations in the high north, off Norway, Iceland, Canada and the Faroes, are far less contaminated due to their distance from major PCB sources. ”The only thing that gives me hope about killer whales in the longer term is, yes, we are going to lose populations all over the industrialised areas, but there are populations that are doing reasonably well in the Arctic,” said Jepson.

If a global clean-up, which would take decades, can be achieved, these populations could eventually repopulate empty regions, he said, noting that killer whales are very intelligent, have strong family bonds and hunt in packs. “It is an incredibly adaptive species – they have been able to [live] from the Arctic to the Antarctic and everywhere in between.”

He praised the billion-dollar “superfund” clean-ups in the US, such as in the Hudson River and Puget Sound, where the polluter has paid most of the costs: “The US is going way beyond the Stockholm Convention because they know how toxic PCBs are.”

Source: The Guardian.com

Another orca is sick; more orcas are pregnant

September 25, 2018

Two weeks after it was announced J50 was presumed deadNOAA reports another resident orca appears to be ailing.

Side-by-side photography shows a 27-year-old male, K25, is noticeably thinner than in previous years. NOAA says the change in body condition coincides with the loss of K25’s mother — K13 — in 2017.  They say it likely reflects the struggle he faces without his mother’s help capturing and sharing prey.  Male orcas rely on females to help meet their energy demands and a mother’s death often initiates increased mortality rates for male adults.

On a positive note, NOAA reports K27, K25’s sister, appears to be heavily pregnant, according to aerial images. Other female orcas in all three resident pods — J, K, and L — are pregnant as well. However, there is a high rate of failed reproduction among the K pod, according to NOAA. K27 has aborted a fetus in the past.

On March 14, Gov. Inslee signed an executive order establishing the Southern Resident Orca Task Force. The group has been developing a long-term plan to aid the Southern Resident killer whales. Among the initial recommendations are slow zones for boats, studying harbor seals, and creating no fishing zones. Read more.

The presumed death of J50 captured the attention of people around the state, even prompting a memorial last week and motivation for restaurants to stop serving Chinook salmon.  The 3-year-old orca had been struggling to gain weight. Teams of scientists administered antibiotics and the Lummi Nation attempted to feed her live salmon with medication. They were trying to get close enough to administer de-wormer.

J50 was considered an important member of the Southern Resident killer whale population as a young female with the potential to reproduce.

In late July, J35 or Tahlequah, lost her female calf. She carried it for 17 days and over 1,000 miles before finally letting it go on Aug. 11.

Source: MY Northwest.com

Update on Morgan and her calf

September 24, 2018

From Loro Parque Blog

The first days in the life of a cetacean are critical and we have all been encouraged by Morgan’s strong maternal instincts and the way she is nurturing and taking care of her calf. Establishing breastfeeding is crucial in this early phase and our team of veterinarians and external consultants are closely monitoring both mother and calf to see that this happens. Over the first 24 hours Morgan’s milk production has been lower than we would like, meaning it may be necessary to introduce bottle feeding to ensure that the calf is getting the nourishment it needs. We sincerely hope that nature can take its course and that Morgan can feed her calf independently. However, we are watching the situation carefully and will assist with bottle feeding, if the experts consider that the life of the calf is at risk.

We wish to take this opportunity to say thank you for all the kind messages we have received from all over the world as we celebrate the birth of Morgan’s calf. We will continue to provide updates as they enjoy their first days together.

VIDEO of Loro Parque explaining the situation to guests

Morgan gave birth to her calf at Loro Parque (with vid)

September 22, 2017

Birth announcement was posted on Loro Parque’s blog.

Loro Parque has good news to share: the orca Morgan that was rescued after being found near dead near the coast of the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands and that forms part of our group of orcas, gave birth to her first calf this morning, which finds itself in a perfect state of health. From the very first moment, Morgan demonstrated to be an exemplary mother attending to her newborn, which is swimming next to its mother in the installations of the ‘OrcaOcean’.

The orca Morgan was rescued at the coast of the Wadden Sea in 2010 and was attended by a team of experts of the Harderwijk Dolphinarium in an effort to help the lost animal, which showed such a severe malnutrition that the animal was only skin and bones. In this moment, Morgan only weighed 430 Kg and the keepers of the Dutch dolphinarium were not sure that the animal was going to survive the first night after its rescue. They, however, were hopeful that with a proper level of care, affection and attention of the care givers, as well as with the adequate nutrition, the animal could make a recovery.

Thanks to all these efforts of the team at Harderwijk, the animal began to recover its weight and strength, and as the Harderwijk installations were not prepared to keep orcas, the Dutch authorities initiated a formal commission to determine the future of the orca Morgan. A group of international and independent experts came to the conclusion that there were only two viable alternatives for the animal: euthanasia or to be kept at an installation of an aquarium that complied with the necessary conditions for this animal species.

At this moment, as Loro Parque had the most modern installations for orcas in existence, the Park was contacted to see if it would accept the animal. Despite all the challenges that this request represented, Loro Parque accepted the petition, thus, avoiding the only other alternative that was left for the animal: the euthanasia.

After a few months at our installations, the orca Morgan adapted to the new conditions and integrated perfectly into the existing group of orcas at Loro Parque. At the same time, it was discovered that the orca suffered a severe hearing deficiency, which was yet another argument to confirm that animal was incapable to survive on her own in nature.

Given this last circumstance, there were a number of questions as to what exactly a delivery would imply for the animal without a hearing capacity. Today, Loro Parque would like to share the great news: the delivery went in a completely normal manner and the first hours after the birth have been developing in accordance with the best expectations.

It is impossible to know the gender of the new calf yet, although the most important issue now is that both, the mother and the calf, find themselves in a perfect state of health. Loro Parque will be informing the public about the development of the situation, and would like to take this opportunity to thank all its visitors from many different parts of the world, the tour operators and all the collaborators in the scientific field for all the support to the Loro Parque mission: to protect and conserve animals and their natural habitats for future generations.

  • First VIDEO of Morgan and her calf can be found HERE. The calf seems to be having trouble finding the right spot to nurse from, she’s too high on Morgan’s body. 

As southern resident killer whales dwindle, more food options mean northern population is thriving

September 20, 2018

As concern grows over the decline of the southern resident killer whale population following the presumed death of the young female J50, the story off B.C.’s north and central coast is much different. 

The most recent count of the northern resident group of orcas reported 309 whales, more than four times the number of southern residents.

“The northern killer whale population is doing much better… [and] doesn’t seem to be going through the same slow decline,” said Lance Barrett-Lenard, head of the cetacean research program at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Both populations feed on chinook salmon as their primary prey but Barrett-Lenard said the northern whales have less competition and more options to choose from, with fish returning to the Skeena River, Nass River and Owikeno Lake.

More options for food

“If one system is bad… our northern residents have the opportunity to shift their focus to fish returning to another system,” Barrett-Lenard told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk.

“In the case of the southern residents, however, that population is really dependent on chinook bound for the Fraser River and to some extent the Columbia [River] … When those systems are down it doesn’t have anywhere to go.”

He said with stocks of chinook declining across the province, northern residents could very well face the same fate. He noted their population growth has begun to taper off after keeping a steady rate for the past 30 years.

Another possibility his colleagues have considered is that the northern whales might take over the southern residents’ territory if the latter were to die out.

Maintaining marine diversity

Barrett-Lenard said the disappearance of the southern residents would be a huge loss of cultural significance for the province.

“As people, we value diversity. We value the diversity of Indigenous groups, we have words like cultural genocide, we’re very concerned if a language is lost. In the same way I think we recognize that these killer whale populations are ancient, unique, distinct cultures,” he said.

“If one of them goes, it will eventually be replaced in space by another one — but once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. We as humans have made this value judgment that we don’t want that to happen.”

To protect and sustain the northern resident killer whales, Barrett-Lenard said people must me mindful of the factors that have caused the decline of their primary food source.

“Certainly, climate change is important; preserving those estuarine​ and river spawning habitats is incredibly important; and keeping our own monitoring and management of our fisheries is important,” he said.

Source: cbc.ca

Tidal Wave of Chinese Marine Parks Fuels Murky Cetacean Trade

September 20, 2018

Eight beluga whales jump in unison out of a bright blue indoor pool, flipping their tailfins and spewing fountains of water, as a packed audience cheers and snaps photographs.

Whale shows like the one at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, located in Zhuhai on China’s southern coast, are proliferating at new marine parks across the country, driving demand for threatened species, according to scientists, executives and activists.

Orcas and beluga whales are among the marine animals caught up in a shadowy trade in which individual cetaceans – often caught illegally – sell for millions of dollars, they say.

Marine parks and aquariums are opening monthly in China, with more than 36 large-scale projects set to launch in the coming two years. This comes as many live animal shows in the United States and Europe are being scrapped due to widespread opposition.

“We’ve had great progress in shutting down marine parks in the West but China is saying, ‘it’s my turn now’,” said Ric O’Barry, founder of the Dolphin Project, an advocacy group.

Lured by booming domestic tourism, companies such as Haichang Ocean Park <2255.HK>, Guangzhou R&F Properties <2777.HK>, Dalian Shengya and Chimelong Group are spearheading the rapid growth of the industry.

Haichang’s Shanghai Ocean World, which is due to open in November, and Chimelong’s Ocean Kingdom are preparing live orca shows for the first time in China.

O’Barry, who captured and trained dolphins and orcas before launching a campaign against captive marine mammals in 1970, said China was the main driver of the industry globally.

Over 60 marine parks already operate in China, ranging from large-scale developments like Chimelong’s Ocean Kingdom, to small facilities which are typically add-ons to big property projects, said industry executives.

Chimelong, Haichang, Dalian Shengya, Zhonghong Group and Rizhao Ocean Park did not respond to multiple requests for comment. R&F said its planned resort would only include wild captured cetaceans if they had been rescued, or came from reputable zoos and aquariums.

Cities often initiate marine park projects as an eye-catching way of raising their profiles, and offer developers vast tracts of land and cheap loans to build them.

Noble Coker, president of Apex Parks and Entertainment Services, which works with theme parks in Asia, said marine facilities were often a secondary consideration in an overall deal to acquire land from municipal governments.

Developers benefit from the quick development and sale of residential or commercial property, he said, with elements like marine parks typically paid for by the property sales.

“All of the incentives for the developers are in the short-term, so the 20-year moral and ethical impacts of the park or aquarium they are building are rarely, if ever, considered,” said Coker.

ILLEGAL CAPTURES

Since 2014, 872 cetaceans – which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises – have been put into captivity in China, according to the China Cetacean Association.

There are currently no local government regulations or international standards to monitor the trade, said Lucio Conti, vice president for marine facilities at Atlantis Sanya, a resort located in China’s tropical Hainan province.

Conti said Atlantis was working with the government to establish an animal welfare standard at a time when there was growing illegal trade of endangered wildlife.

“If you go to the fishermen here on the island they can get you whatever you want. They can get you a whale shark, they can get you every species, endangered or not because there is no such control.”

China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism referred a request for comment to the State Forestry and Grassland Administration, which is in charge of wildlife issues.

The administration referred questions to the State Oceanic Administration, which in turn referred questions to the Ministry of Natural Resources. That ministry referred questions to the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Ministry, which did not respond to a request for comment.

Many Chinese marine parks feature whale sharks, belugas, dolphins and manta rays. But no orcas – or killer whales, known for their distinctive black and white coloring – have been displayed publicly up to now.

At least 13 Russian orcas were imported to China between 2013 and 2016, according to CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Another two were sent in 2017 and more are set to be imported this year, according to Oxana Fedorova, head of Dolphin Project Russia.

CITES did not reveal the companies involved.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a UK-based group, said Chimelong Ocean Kingdom possesses nine orcas, Shanghai Haichang Polar Ocean World has four and two more are at Wuxi Changqiao Ocean Kingdom.

Russia, which is the sole supplier of wild orcas and beluga whales to China, in July announced an investigation into the illegal sale of 7 killer whales.

Four companies were involved in the sale of the orcas to China, according to a statement from the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. It did not name the companies or the destination of the orcas.

Russia approved a capture quota for 13 orcas in 2018. Several killer whales have already been caught in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk, said activists monitoring the hunt in August.

“The problem is the demand that is being created in China,” said Fedorova, who worked with the team, organized by Ocean Friends. She said the team of seven had been threatened, shot at and robbed by the hunters.

The activists said they were unable to record the captures on film as their drone was shot down.

However, a photograph from Ocean Friends showed transportation tanks on a Russian ship called Jurii Shvezov holding two orcas.

A representative from Kupets, the company that owns the ship, said it was engaged in the transportation of orcas and did not catch them. She declined to comment further.

DISPOSABLE MANNER

Naomi Rose, a Washington-based marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, said the captures were unsustainable and inhumane.

She added that the prospect of high profits would continue to attract a criminal element.

“When you have that much money involved – where an animal is worth several million dollars- you are going to have crime and danger.”

Once in captivity, the rate of mortality is extremely high, said activists. This forces companies to continually repurchase marine animals.

“They just suffer in captivity. Especially for orcas, they are the most unsuitable to be put in a tank. Their culture is in the wild,” said Taison Chang, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

Squalid conditions and poor welfare practices are growing concerns amid the increasing flood of marine parks.

In June, for example, an online video showed a trainer from Ocean World in China’s port city of Dalian applying bright red lipstick on a beluga whale. The company later apologized and promised to strengthen the animal protections, according to local media.

Activists worry that once China’s biggest players start orca performances, it will spawn a copycat effect at smaller, less experienced parks around the country.

Peng, who was watching the beluga show at Ocean Kingdom with his wife and son, said he had not realized belugas were endangered and that he had enjoyed the show.

“It’s not cruel for them. They feed them and didn’t beat them.”

($1 = 6.8297 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Source: US News.com

In Rare Video, Young Orcas Learn to Hunt Sea Turtles

September 17, 2018

While being caught in the jaws of a killer whale may be terrifying, it’s not always a death sentence. Killer whales, also known as orcas, occasionally conduct coordinated attacks on animals they have no intention of eating—including sea turtles.

In the winter of 2017, photographer and biology student Nicolás Dávalos was conducting field work off the coast of Isla Isabela, the largest of the Galapagos islands. Dávalos, snorkeling at the surface, watched in awe as a group of three orcas—an adult and two juveniles—went after a pair of green sea turtles.

The eldest orca began using the front of its head, known as the rostrum, to violently spin a turtle. Meanwhile, one of the juveniles grabbed a second turtle by the fin and dragged it below the surface. The orcas toyed with these creatures for half an hour before abruptly swimming off, leaving the turtles uneaten; at least one of them seemed to have survived, Dávalos adds

“Killer whales will at times play with potential prey for a half hour or more, and then just move on, leaving the victim unharmed,” says Robert Pitman, marine ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center ……

To continue reading the article and watch the VIDEO visit the Source: National Geographic

Rare Orca ‘Superpod’ Gathers, Ailing Calf Presumed Dead

September 15, 2018

Superpod of Orcas

A ‘superpod’ of orcas has come together off Canada’s west coast, as scientists declare a calf from the local population dead.

The ailing calf – dubbed J50 – was a member of an endangered population of orcas found south of Vancouver island, and hasn’t been seen since Friday.

Appearing emaciated and lethargic, scientists have been tracking the whale and concerned for her wellbeing for a number of months and, unable to find her, are now operating under the assumption that she’s died.

‘Superpod’

The rare superpod is suspected to have come together as a result of the youngster’s death.

Speaking to Global News, Robb Krehbiel of Defenders of Wildlife said: “The fact that this gathering occurred and J50 wasn’t there means to us she is gone and her family is trying to deal with it.”

Calves lost

This development follows the death of another orca in the endangered group, J35 – the deceased calf who, after death, was famously carried by the pod for over two weeks in what appeared to be a display of grief.

Salmon shortages in the area have kept the population from raising a calf to maturity for more than three years.

Scientists will continue the search for J50, or her body, over the course of the weekend.

Source: Plant Based News.org

Ailing Killer Whale Declared Dead, but Feds to Keep Looking

September 14, 2018

Efforts to find an ailing orca from a critically endangered population of killer whales off Washington state have come up empty, and a scientist who tracks them has declared her dead.

Efforts to find a sick young orca from a critically endangered population of killer whales in the Pacific Northwest came up empty Thursday, and a scientist who tracks the animals declared her dead — though federal authorities said they’d keep looking.

The grim news means scientists believe just 74 whales remain in a group that has failed to reproduce successfully in the past three years. The orcas have struggled with pollution, boat noise and, most severely, a dearth of their preferred prey, chinook salmon, because of dams, habitat loss and overfishing.

“We’re watching a population marching toward extinction,” said Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research. “Unless we do something about salmon recovery, we’re just not going to have these whales in the future.”

The whales are in such bad shape that experts prepared last-ditch efforts to save the emaciated nearly 4-year-old known as J50. A sharpshooting veterinarian fired an antibiotic-filled dart into her, crews dropped live salmon in front of her to try to get her to eat, and scientists even mulled capturing her so they could diagnose and treat her.

J50 has not been seen since last Friday. As teams scrambled to find her Thursday, she failed to appear with her pod once again, despite favorable sighting conditions. Balcomb, who tracks the whales for the U.S. government, declared her dead late Thursday afternoon.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA Fisheries, said the agency gives great weight to Balcomb’s assessment of the whales, given his long experience monitoring them. But, he said the U.S. and Canadian governments plan to continue searching Friday on the chance she’s still alive.

“We want to make the most of it to make sure that if J50 is there, we haven’t missed her,” Milstein said. “We haven’t given up hope.”

Crews in a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, 10 vessels, whale watch crews and other resources on both sides of the border were involved in the search. Authorities also alerted a network of people who respond when marine mammals wash ashore.

Whale experts feared the orca was dead earlier this month when J50 lagged behind her family and went missing. But she later turned up and was seen with her family.

The distinctive black-and-white orcas, known as southern resident killer whales, have struggled since they were listed as an endangered species in the U.S. and Canada well over a decade ago.

The orcas’ numbers are now at their lowest in more than three decades.

Another whale in the same pod, known as J35, triggered international sympathy this summer when she kept the body of her dead calf afloat in waters for more than two weeks.

The message, the Center for Whale Research said in a website post, is that extinction is looming “while the humans convene task forces and conference calls that result in nothing, or worse than nothing, diverting attention and resources from solving the underlying ecological problems.”

Scientist began to be concerned about J50 in July. Teams dropped live salmon from a boat as J50 and her pod swam behind — a test to see whether fish could be used as a means of delivering medication.

Drone images taken earlier this month showed J50 much thinner than she was last year. Her mother, J16, has also declined in condition in the past month.

Source: US News.com