Morgan’s Calf Named! Together with mother again

January 13, 2019


On Sunday, December 3, 2017, this newspaper EL  DÍA offered through El Cotarro , in scoop and exclusive, the great news that the already popular and beloved orca Morgan  del Loro Parque, was pregnant (4 months). And we said that the tireless Wolfgang Kiessling,  founder and president of the Loro Parque Group, ordered the development of a super special protocol and operative, to properly and specifically attend to what would be a “first-time mother”. From the first moment and during the 17 months! that the pregnancy has lasted, the own Wolfgang Kiessling , along with the doctor in Sciences of the Sea and director of Loro Park Foundation, Javier Almunia, they were waiting for Morgan until September 22, 2018, the day on which a wonderful orca baby was born that, over time, has been known to be a female and that today, also in scoop and exclusive, I can announce It will be called Ula , a name of Celtic origin that means “jewel of the sea”. Remember that Morgan , was rescued after being found dying on the coast of the Wadden Sea (Holland) and that Loro Parque welcomed her at the request of the Dutch Justice. Today Morgan  and Ula  are from Tenerife and live happily in Loro Parque.

Source: Elcotarro.com

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2 more Puget Sound orcas predicted to die in critically endangered population

January 2, 2019

Two more orcas are ailing and probably will be dead by summer, according to the region’s expert on the demographics of the critically endangered southern residents.

Ken Balcomb, founding director of the Center for Whale Research, said photos taken of J17 on New Year’s Eve showed the 42-year-old female has so-called peanut head, a misshapen head and neck caused by starvation. In addition K25, a 27-year-old male, is failing, also from lack of sufficient food. He lost his mother, K13, in 2017 and is not successfully foraging on his own.

“I am confident we are going to lose them sometime before summer,” Balcomb said.

Drone photography this past summer showed K25 to be noticeably thinner, and photos taken of him again in this winter show no improvement, Balcomb said.

Several whales were documented to be pregnant back in September, but so far there has been no sign of any babies. The southern residents have not had a successful pregnancy in three years.

The troubling news comes on top of a grim year in 2018 for the southern residents, the J, K, and L pods of fish-eating orcas that frequent the Salish Sea, which includes Puget Sound and the transboundary waters of the United States and Canada, as well as the West Coast of the United States.

The southern resident population is at a 35-year low after three deaths this past year in four months. There are only 74 left. “I am going to stop counting at 70,” Balcomb said. “What is the point?”

Losing J17 would be a blow to the southern residents because she is a female still of reproducing age, said Deborah Giles, research scientist for University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and research director for nonprofit Wild Orca. 

Giles said she was not surprised to hear about K25. The social dynamics of the southern residents, in which older females help their pod, and especially their sons by sharing food, is both a blessing and a curse if that female dies, Giles said.

“These large, adult, hungry males benefit by the females in their family,” Giles said. “There probably is still family foraging going on, but not like he had when his mom was alive.”

As for J17, “that is the worst of those two, the thought of losing her, she is such an important member for the southern resident community,” Giles said.

J17 is the mother of J35, or Tahlequah, who moved people around the world when in 2018 she carried her dead calf that lived for only one half-hour on her head for more than 1,000 miles over the course of 17 days.

The family already has been through a lot.

“We have no idea what that grandmother went through, watching her daughter carry around that baby as long as she did,” Giles said. “What would that have been like. To watch your daughter go through that grief and not have much you can do about it.”

The same family in 2016 also lost J54, a 1-year-old whale the whole family tried to support, especially his sister, J46, feeding him, and lifting the baby whale up with their teeth every time he started to sink. “The other whales were trying to support him,” Balcomb said. “He had tooth rakes all over his body, but it wasn’t malicious, he was sinking.”

It is hard to confront a new year with two whales already failing, Giles said. “It is this anticipatory grief. I am worried. And I am afraid.”

Drone photography taken this past September showed the southern residents went into the winter thinner than they were when the whales arrived in the San Juan Islands last summer. They also are thinner than the northern residents, which have been steadily growing in population for the past 40 years in their home waters primarily in northern B.C. and southeast Alaska, where they have access to more fish, and cleaner and quieter water. The northern residents gave birth to 10 new calves last year.

The southern residents look particularly thin next to the seal-eating transient, or Bigg’s, killer whales.

“They are like marshmallows,” Balcomb said.

The coming year is not looking any easier for the southern residents in terms of their food supply. The whales mostly eat chinook salmon.

Ocean conditions and poor river migration, with warm water and low flows, have hurt chinook salmon returns in the past several years. Even Columbia River fall chinook, a bright spot by comparison in the region, came back to the river in such low numbers last summer that a rare emergency fishing closure was enacted on the river from the mouth all the way to Pasco.

Only 186,862 fall chinook made it back below Bonneville dam in 2018, 65 percent below the 10-year average. Returns over Bonneville of jacks, or immature chinook, which can be a reliable predictor of this year’s return, were down to 61 percent below the 10-year average.

Columbia River chinook are important to the whales because they are among the biggest, fattiest fish of all. The whales also target chinook returning to rivers in Puget Sound, and in the summer, to the Fraser River. Those runs have been declining as well.

The whales’ behavior is changing as their food sources dwindle. They are arriving later and later in the San Juan Islands, because the Fraser River chinook runs they seek in those waters have so declined. The southern residents also are no longer often seen in large groups, in a pattern of feeding, then socializing, then resting before going on to a new spot.

“They do not have enough fish to feed them, they are spread out all over, we never seem them like it was 30, 40 years ago, when they would travel and find fish, then be playful, then rest, then travel again, that was the pattern,” Balcomb said.

“You don’t see them resting any more, they have to work all the time, every day.”

He said proposals put forward for the whales in the governor’s $1.1 billion budget for orca recovery, including a temporary ban on whale watching of the southern residents don’t go far enough.

“We need bold action,” Balcomb said. “Natural rivers and more chinook salmon.”

Source: Seattle Times

How beluga whales, orca births are linked

December 31, 2018

Montreal diverted its sewage to the St. Lawrence River; shortly thereafter beluga whales started dying. The deaths were blamed on tanker traffic. No deaths were reported before or after restoration of the sewage treatment.

Victoria is just now in the process of building a Sewage Treatment Facility to serve only the Greater Victoria area, rather than pushing the stuff into the ocean. Until completed and in operation, the region will continue to discharge an average of 82 million litres a day into the ocean.

The orca pods in southern B.C. waters haven’t a surviving birth in five years.

Sewage does not only contain human waste it has in it everything dumped into our toilets. Medications and everything flushed out of bodies, chemicals, spoiled products thru our garburator’s. Making it a deadly source of contamination.

Most of Vancouver’s sewage goes to treatment plants. The older parts of the sewage and stormwater system use one pipe that carries both sewage and stormwater combined. Raw sewage frequently backs up into the stormwater system dumping 36 billion litres of untreated effluent from outfalls in Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster each year. Stormwater overloads the system and discharges from 42 combined underwater outfalls, so people never see the raw sewage that harms marine life all around the outfalls. The worst outfall empties into Burrard Inlet at the north end of Clark Drive. Huge volumes of raw sewage discharge regularly from this site. A large area of the ocean floor is smothered by human feces, and other excrement. The plume reaches New Brighton Park. Outfalls are at Brockton Point, Coal Harbour, English Bay, Kitsilano and five in False Creek. More than a dozen go directly into the Fraser River, where juvenile salmon spend months acclimatizing to saltwater environment.

Greater Vancouver Regional District has set a 50-year timeline for eliminating these raw sewage discharges. Fisheries and Oceans Canada considers them a violation of the Fisheries Act.

Source: Medicine Hat News

Loro Parque not planning to reunite Morgan with her calf any time soon

December 28, 2018

Yesterday Loro Parque announced several research projects it had in the works involving Morgan’s recent female calf. The calf was removed from Morgan’s care after only a few days citing that Morgan “wasn’t producing enough milk.” The calf has been hand reared in the medical pool ever since, and apparently Morgan is being kept in an adjacent tank.

I would have assumed that the calf would be returned to Morgan at the earliest opportunity. Once the calf is coming over for regular bottle feedings and it’s physical health and development were going well the next priority should be to return the calf to Morgan so that its social development can catch up.

Killer whales, like humans, are essentially a blank slate when they are born. Very little about their behavior seems to be instinctive. This is proven by the fact that so far all orca population in the wild seems to have it’s own culture. They not only have their own unique dialects of sound but also their own unique way of feeding and socializing. Resident killer whales in the Pacific North West have strict social hierarchies with individuals never leaving their mother’s pod until the day the matriarch dies. These orca feed only on fish, primarily salmon. Transient whales that share part of their range with the residents feed on marine mammals such as seals, dolphins, and large whales. Transient social structure seems more flexible with individuals seeming to leave their family unites after a certain point. While still another population in New Zealand seems to have their own unique cultural characteristics such as feeding on both fish and marine mammals. There is nothing to explain this difference other than culture, a learned set of behaviors passed down from generation through generation.

In Loro Parque’s blog post they states the following with regard to the development of killer whale echolocation:

There is not much information on whether it is a behaviour that cetaceans learn or if it is innate, nor is there data on the moment in which it appears in their development,

On the surface their plans seem like a great idea. We have this chance to study orca development, why not use it to full advantage? HOWEVER in order to set up an experiment to test if the behavior of echolocation arises on its own through innate instinct you have to control any and all variables for the behavior to appear through social learning. Therefore the Morgan’s female calf HAS to be kept in isolation in order for this experiment to be conducted. Loro Parque has just made it clear that it has no plans to reunite Morgan with her daughter any time soon.

Loro Parque contributes to research on the echolocation of orcas

December 27, 2018

Loro Parque, in its continuous commitment to scientific research, has recently begun to collaborate in research on the echolocation of orcas, a key sense that favours their orientation and the location of prey for hunting.  There is not much information on whether it is a behaviour that cetaceans learn or if it is innate, nor is there data on the moment in which it appears in their development, so that the zoo, recognised as the best in the world, will contribute to providing information on a feature that is vital to their survival.

Loro Parque is working with the University of Southern Denmark in a study with Morgan’s calf in order to try and establish when echolocation begins in the young orcas.  The first experiments have already begun.

Echolocation is the location of an object through the reflection of sound waves, used by animal species such as bats and cetaceans and in sonar systems.

In both bats and dolphins, echolocation skills have been studied for decades, and although there is a deep understanding of their capabilities and use, it is not clear how it develops.  In the case of dolphins, recordings under animals in human care indicate that echolocation may develop after about three to four weeks, although other studies indicate that it may take much longer.

About young orcas, however, there is no information whatsoever, and some knowledge would help to better understand and protect these animals with more reliable risk-assessments on the impact of marine noise, its possible consequences, and even age estimates, based on sound recordings.  Thus, by recording the calf periodically, one can begin to understand the development of its echolocation capacity – when it begins and how this sense evolves until it matches that of an adult orca.

Source: Loro Parque Blog

The idea of Japan resuming commercial whaling is horrifying

December 21, 2018

Whales are among the most intelligent beings on Earth. They have what experts define as “culture”; they learn knowledge as individuals and share it with others; sperm whales talk with local dialects; orcas appear to grieve for their dead offspring – a few months ago, one grieving killer whale carried her dead calf on her back for more than two weeks. They are thinking, caring, complex animals. That Japan is reportedly planning to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and resume commercial whaling should, then, horrify us all.

The IWC banned commercial whaling three decades ago, but Japan has exploited an exemption to hunt whales for “research” purposes, including killing 122 pregnant whaleslast winter. The proof for this supposed “research” is desperately lacking. Since the ban, more than 30,000 whales have been killed; and before the ban on commercial whaling, Japan and other whaling nations helped drive some species of whales to the brink of extinction. Indeed, in the eight decades before the IWC ban, an estimated 1.3 million whales in the Antarctic alone were killed by commercial whaling. Hunting for blue whales in the Antarctic was banned more than half a century ago, yet the population has never recovered: their numbers worldwide have collapsed from 220,000 to perhaps just 3,000.

Humans should be the Earth’s custodians, not its butchers. Much attention – though not enough – focuses on the existential threat posed by climate change. But humanity’s mass destruction of the Earth’s wildlife is all too little discussed. We are witnessing the sixth great mass extinction event, not because of an asteroid colliding with the planet or catastrophic volcanic eruptions, but because of humanity. The passenger pigeon, the golden toad, the Caspian tiger: they are all gone, and other species hang by a thread. Our actions are not merely driving other species to extinction: we threaten our own survival, too, by destabilising ecosystems and destroying biodiversity.

Japan’s actions should meet universal condemnation. But a renewed assault on whales should be a broader reminder that humanity is at war with its own planet. It may well prove to be a war of annihilation that, without a drastic shift in course, destroys us all.

Source: The Guardian.com

6.2 million Chinook Salmon fry die after power outage at hatchery

December 17, 2018

Last week’s windstorm cut the power to the Minter Creek Hatchery in Pierce County, in turn causing 6.2 million Chinook Salmon fry to die. The back up generator failed which caused the pumps that brought water into the tanks to fail.

The fish were kept in incubators at the hatchery. According to a press release from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the inventory of fish lost are 4.2 million Deshutes fall Chinook fry, 1.5 million Minter Creek fall Chinook fry and 507,000 White River spring Chinook fry.

“It’s a severe loss. It’s a challenge to try to recover from something like this. This particular species is not as age-class sensitive as other salmon species. But this is going to have a significant impact on adult returns,” said Jim Jenkins, WDFW South Puget Sound Hatchery Operations Manager.

The department was raising the White River spring Chinook as part of the state’s early efforts to provide more food for Southern Resident orcas. The Deschutes and Minter Creek fall Chinook were part of WDFW’s ongoing hatchery operations that support state fisheries.

“The department is conducting an analysis to determine the root cause of what went wrong so that we can improve procedures at Minter Creek and our other hatcheries to help ensure this doesn’t happen again,” said Eric Kinne, WDFW hatchery division manager.

Source: Koman News.com

Spectacular moment orca pod cruise up, shove fishing boat caught on video

December 16, 2018

The fish may not have been biting, but a pod of curious orcas have turned one Upper Hutt man’s fishing trip into one he’ll never forget.

Gareth Pritchard was with friends Garry and Glen Toms near Mana Island, south of Kapiti Island, when they had the incredibly close encounter on Saturday – and they caught it all on video.

Only moments after Mr Pritchard whipped out his phone to film, one orca gets a little too close for comfort, swimming underneath his boat and shoving it.

The rest of the pod continue to cruise around the fishers, completely unaware of their starstruck audience.

“Look at the size of that monster!” Mr Pritchard can be heard saying in the video.

He told Newshub he was stunned by the once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

“We were all bloody excited when it happened, but we didn’t expect it to come up and push the boat – twice!” Mr Pritchard said.

“I was a bit shocked, I fell over. I was stunned… He gave it quite a shove. It was an experience that doesn’t happen to people very often.”

The group’s excitement is obvious in the video, as they all laugh and try to process what just happened.

“The fish are gone now, I’ll tell you that much,” one friend can be heard pointing out as the orcas meander away again.

“We [also] laughed at the point my friend’s boat is named ‘Finn Fish’ and didn’t want to rename it ‘Flipped Fish’!” Mr Pritchard said.

The new friends were only passing through, hanging around for about a minute-and-a-half before moving on.

But it’s turned a lacklustre fishing trip into a memory of a lifetime.

To watch the VIDEO and read the Source visit News Hub.co.nz

Gov. Inslee proposes $1.1 billion budget to aid Puget Sound orcas

December 13, 2018

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced his proposals for the state’s 2019-21 budget Thursday, and among the list of priorities is a $1.1 billion investment in the region’s orca population.

“We share so much with the orcas, we share about the same body temperature, we share about the same heart rate, we share close familial bonds and we share the need to defeat environmental degradation,” Inslee said. “When we save the orcas from toxins, when we save them from climate change, when we save them from pollution — we save ourselves.”

The governor’s proposal targets the lack of prey — Chinook salmon — that orcas rely on. It also addresses pollutants, vessel traffic, and the potential of breaching the lower four dams on the Snake River. The proposal follows up on task force recommendations released earlier this year which Inslee says he is embracing. It also follows the effort to save one ailing orca and the deaths of newborn calves over the past year that garnered many headlines.

The governor’s budget proposal states:

Besides helping orcas, these investments will have significant benefits for the region’s entire ecosystem and complement efforts to recover salmon, tackle climate change, improve water quality and more. These investments are based on actions most likely to yield strong benefits for Southern Residents orcas over the short term while setting up a sustainable, data-driven path for longer-term efforts.

Proposed funding includes:

-$363 million for salmon recovery.

-$296 million for the Washington State Department of Transportation to correct fish passage barriers.

-$6.2 million for greater enforcement with habitat protection laws.

-$75.7 million for the state’s hatchery system.

-$4.7 million to collect pinniped (sea lion) population information and to develop management actions.

-$524,000 to examine issues related to increasing Chinook population by reestablishing salmon runs above Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River.

-$117 million to covert two of the state’s ferries (Jumbo Mark II models) to hybrid-electric ferries (Inslee expects this to save the state $7 million in annual fuel costs).

Breaching the lower four Snake River dams is also mentioned in the proposal, which is part of a current federal process. Inslee wants to put $750,000 toward a task force to study the impacts and mitigation costs of such an action.

-Also included in the budget are proposed actions:

-A temporary three-year ban on all whale watching of Southern Resident orca, to be reviewed afterward to assess its effectiveness.

-$1.1 million for the Department of Fish and Wildlife to enforce the whale watching suspension.

-Increasing the distance between marine vessels and orcas to 400 yards, also a “go slow” zone within half a mile of orcas.

-Increased funding for toxic cleanups, including $3 million for local control programs; $4.2 million to speed up cleanups; $3.5 million to remove creosote structures; $57.8 million to clean up toxic sites; $51 million to reduce stormwater, $32 million to address contaminants from wastewater systems.

-Millions in funding for scientific support of the orca recovery effort.

Click here to read the story on mynorthwest.com.

Source: kiro7.com

SeaWorld says DOJ probe into ‘Blackfish’ statements is over

December 13, 2018

  • SeaWorld Entertainment says it has been notified that the U.S. Department of Justice is ending its probe into whether company officials misled investors about the negative impact the documentary “Blackfish” was having on its business.
  • In September, SeaWorld and two former executives agreed to pay more than $5 million to settle federal fraud claims brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleging they had made misleading statements about the documentary’s impact.

SeaWorld Entertainment says it has been notified that the U.S. Department of Justice is ending its probe into whether company officials misled investors about the negative impact the documentary “Blackfish” was having on its business.

In September, SeaWorld and two former executives agreed to pay more than $5 million to settle federal fraud claims brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleging they had made misleading statements about the documentary’s impact.

The Orlando-based theme park company said Wednesday in a SEC filing that Justice Department has now notified the company that it won’t take any action.

Attendance and revenue declined after the release of the 2013 documentary about the life of Tilikum, an orca that killed a SeaWorld trainer during a performance in Orlando in 2010.

Source: cnbc.com