Photo of the Day : Hectors dolphins, New Zealand

Marine mammals off Canterbury coastline. Photo by H Peters

Asia Update : Good news for threatened dolphins

Lipotes vexillifer
Image via Wikipedia

Good news from Arkive 

*** Learn From Nature Factsheet on dolphins 


Three new wildlife sanctuaries have been declared by the Government of Bangladesh, in the hope that they will help to prevent the extinction of the threatened Irrawaddy and Ganges river dolphins.

Threatened dolphins

Freshwater dolphins are among the most threatened species of dolphin in the world, with the enigmatic Yangtze river dolphin, or baiji, now believed to be extinct. It is hoped that the three new sanctuaries, which are located in the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem, will help to prevent the last two remaining species of freshwater dolphin in Asia from suffering a similar fate.

The sanctuaries will cover a total area of almost 11 square kilometres, which includes 31 kilometres of channels. The size and location of the sanctuaries was determined using scientific findings from a study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Bangladesh Forest Department.

Ganges river dolphin imageGanges river dolphin

Declining numbers

While there are currently no estimates of the global population of the Irrawaddy and Ganges river dolphins, they are believed to be in decline and to have disappeared from major parts of their historic range. Entanglement in fishing gear and the depletion of their natural prey are thought to be contributing factors.

Director of WCS’s Asian Freshwater and Coastal Cetacean Program, Brian D. Smith, said, “Declaration of these Wildlife Sanctuaries is an essential first step in protecting Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins in Bangladesh. As biological indicators of ecosystem-level impacts, freshwater dolphins can inform adaptive human-wildlife management to cope with climate change, suggesting a broader potential for conservation and sustainable development.”

Baiji imageThe baiji is thought to be extinct

Dolphin hotspot

Bangladesh is believed to be a hotspot for marine mammals, and houses the world’s largest population of the Irrawaddy dolphin, with nearly 6,000 individuals being discovered in 2009. As well as protecting these fascinating creatures, it is hoped that the sanctuaries will also provide refuge for many other species, including the Asian short-clawed otter and the masked finfoot.

For the full story, read the WCS article: Bangladesh Helps Threatened Dolphins Stay Afloat.

View images and videos of dolphin species on ARKive.

Rebecca Moran, ARKive Species Text Author

Source :

Whaling versus tourism: What’ are these gentle giants worth?

Philip Hoare: Leviathans in need of more protection


Wellington Notebook: A proposal to allow Japan commercial whaling rights in return for their agreement to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean is set to bring matters to crisis point

MY VIEW: New Zealand, the ‘land of the long white cloud’ where life is still relatively simple; New Zealand, that small group of three (yes, three!) islands in the South Pacific – is again raising the stakes on environmental  issues and showing the way. Through the work of Bill Ballintyne, it pioneered no-take marine reserves before they became the fashion.

And now, New Zealand is sending a clear sigmal : whaling is no longer acceptable; eco-tourism is the new way forward!

I have plucked the column from The Independent today to illustrate  my points…

Here in New Zealand’s capital, where I’m talking at the literary festival about my book, Leviathan or, the Whale, the subject of whales and whaling is not a remote one. Last Thursday, in a staged protest outside the Australian embassy in Tokyo, Japanese pro-whaling protesters attempted to hand a tin of whale meat to an embassy spokeswoman. The next morning, Tokyo police arrested Paul Bethune, the leader of the New Zealand anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, for trespassing.

 Whales are a live issue for people used to seeing these leviathans swim past their beaches. Only a few hundred miles off their coastline, the infamous whale wars are being fought: between the Japanese, whose supposed “scientific research” kills 2,000 whales each year, and the eco-warriors of Sea Shepherd, dedicated to stopping the cull, at any cost.

Meanwhile, in Florida, last week witnessed the preliminary meeting of the International Whaling Commission. The proposal in hand – to allow Japan commercial whaling rights in return for their agreement to stop whaling in the whale sanctuary of the Southern Ocean – is set to bring matters to crisis point. All this is particularly ironic in the wake of recent events at SeaWorld in Orlando, where a killer whale dragged its trainer to her death. The worldwide media coverage of what was probably a terrible accident only underlines the passion and the fury that reverberates around whales, and how we treat them.

Down here in Kaikoura, the whale-watching capital of the world, every pub and café is filled with whaleheads sure of the need for one thing: action rather than words. I’ve spent the week in search of sperm whales. After hours of searching for the whales by use of a hydrophone – listening to their clicks under water – a magnificent, 16-metre, 40-year-old male whale surfaced. Named Tiaki, his name means “guardian” in Maori.

Once, hundreds of his fellow cetaceans visited these waters. Now Tiaki’s solitary presence may be a final warning: that whales face greater dangers than the Japanese hunt – from the pressures we all place on the whale’s environment, through noise, overfishing, climate change and pollution.

Did you see The Cove – would you do this to a friend?

The Telegraph today says Free flipper! argues scientist

Dolphins should be treated as “non-human persons” and merit special rights above other animals because they are so bright, scientists claim.

Researchers argue that it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in captivity or to kill them for food.

Dolphins have long been recognised as among the most intelligent of animals but many researchers had placed them below chimps, which some studies have found can reach the intelligence levels of three-year-old children.

MY VIEW: I have always been highly unconvinced that marine parks and aquauria were the best places for dophins. Ever since seeing them in relatively tiny pools in small marine centres in New Zealand, I have felt sorry for them! Also, viewing dolphins and whales in the wild where they are naturally spectacular. Recently seeing the film The Cove – has convinced me not only that such amazingly intelligent creatures deserve better, perhaps they should be counted as ‘friends’ just like man’s ‘best friend’ – the dog!