All posts by cmcwhiting

Is the captive Southern Resident orca Lolita dying?

Miami 6 February 2022 – PETA has just learned from confidential sources of egregious developments and animal failings at the Miami Seaquarium. Beloved Lolita the orca—whose small, shallow, barren concrete tank has been closed to the public for months—is reportedly suffering from pneumonia and is in danger of not receiving adequate care. The current attending veterinarian, Shelby Loos, reportedly possessed no orca experience when she was hired in 2019. She left in 2020 but was rehired last year after the Seaquarium fired its longtime head veterinarian after she expressed concern about the extent of animal suffering at the park.

“Lolita has suffered for five decades in this despicable animal prison, and if she has pneumonia, that greatly increases the risk of dying she faces in this inadequate facility,” says PETA Foundation Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman. “PETA is calling on the Seaquarium to shut down before any more sentient beings suffer and die in its tiny tanks.”

The whistleblowers also shared with PETA horrific photographs of Abaco, a 19-year-old dolphin who drowned after his rostrum became entangled in a net separating two pools and, as his necropsy revealed, had also incurred injuries from being attacked by incompatible dolphins. Abaco was one of six animals who died at the Seaquarium in 2019 and 2020, all from trauma-related causes—including to the head and neck with hemorrhaging.

In September, PETA obtained a damning 17-page federal inspection report revealing a slew of animal welfare violations at the Seaquarium, including that it had failed to provide Lolita and several other animals with sufficient shade, leaving them in direct sunlight, which can cause painful damage to their eyes. This is the first time the USDA cited the facility for insufficient shade, even though PETA has been raising the issue for years. Lolita has been held alone there for more than 40 years. She displays repetitive and abnormal behavior, which, according to marine mammal experts, indicates severe psychological trauma. The Seaquarium is currently under further investigation by the USDA.

From Peta’s media release

Why this dedicated wildlife defender is eager to get back to work after nearly dying

“Every life is sacred, but Pete has dedicated his life fighting for those who  can’t fight for themselves.”  Earthrace Conservation 


On December 26th while scouting for wildlife traffickers in the Costa Rican jungle, Earthrace conservationist Pete Bethume was bitten by one of the deadliest snakes in Central America, the fer-de-lance viper. More than two weeks later, Pete is still in recovery. The outstanding care that he received in the hospital saved his life, and continues now as outpatient medical treatment.
Fer-de-lance fangs deliver a toxin that races through bodily tissues and attacks blood vessels, capillaries, and muscle cells, killing tissues and quickly incapacitating both prey and potential predators. The powerful strike is lightning quick.
Bethume barely made it to the hospital in time.
Once Pete was struck, he and his companions had only a four-hour window to bushwhack through the thick jungle two miles to the Coast Guard boat that waited to take him to a hospital. Any longer than that and his chances to survive would have become minimal, and amputation almost certain.
“It took us three and a half hours, and by the end I could barely keep my eyes open,” said Pete from his hospital bed shortly after the incident.

Costa Rican Coast Guard assisting Bethune. (Photo from Bethune’s Facebook page).

His large, soft, brown eyes narrowed as he spoke of the challenges and the fear that faced the group as they slid down creeks and navigated small waterfalls in the dense jungle. The pain had been excruciating as the venom traveled from his calf up to his groin, and towards the end he could barely stay awake.
“I thought this Kiwi was a goner,” he said with a smile as he talked about how his crew of ex-navy men attempted to suck the poison out of his leg, how the terrain made carrying him next to impossible, and how they kept him going.
“Josh, Jack and Alvaro did an amazing job getting us out before dark,” the New Zealander continued. “Towards the end all I wanted to do was sleep. And Jack was like “Come on, ya lazy bastard. Move that skinny ass.”
“The reality is that our campaigns take us to difficult places and sees us taking on criminal gangs that are morally bankrupt and with deep pockets. And I’m not complaining about them. I’m rather highlighting the fact that this is the cause that my team and I choose to fight for, and we know the risks.”
During the entire ordeal, Bethune’s seemingly innate positivity and humor seldom left, and he gave daily updates which were posted on Facebook. Now released from the hospital he continues to post the updates from a ship that serves as headquarters for the work he and the crew are commissioned to do by the Costa Rican government.
Healing from the snake bite has been slow, and expenses continue to mount.

Please consider making a donation no matter how small; whether for the valuable work done by Earthrace Conservation, or simply in honor of the dreamers everywhere who, like Bethune, work tirelessly to make the world a better place, who go where we can’t, who partner with local authorities to protect what little is left of fragile ecosystems.

Screenshot (mirrored photo) from a video posted on 15 January 2021. This video and other updates can be found on Bethune’s Facebook page.

You can support this wounded wildlife warrior by donating to the GoFundMe page: 

Operation Fer-de-lance for Pete Bethune and Earthrace

“During the Covid pandemic, all non-profits are struggling as you can imagine. To offset the huge medical cost of this tragedy, we at Earthrace Conservation are requesting donations.  If there are any excess funds they will be used to fund protecting Costa Rica’s wildlife.

We are trying to be as conservative and sensible with this medical bill estimate… but right now we have no full idea of the final costs.

Every life is sacred but Pete has dedicated his life fighting for those who  can’t fight for themselves. It’s  without doubt that he deserves the best care possible and for us to fight this alongside him!”

Pete argues that we can all lead extraordinary and meaningful lives, but the key is to find and stand for a cause you truly believe in. From serving months in a maximum-security prison for fighting Japanese whalers to saving endangered red monkeys from poachers in the Amazon, Pete Bethune’s story will thrill, move, and inspire you.
Pete Bethune takes conservation to the extreme. As the founder of Earthrace Conservation, Pete is a world record holder, circling the globe four times on his powerboat, Earthrace.
His missions have seen him shot at, run over by a Japanese security vessel, incarcerated in Libya and Japan, and held under armed guard in a Guatemalan Military camp. As the producer of his show ‘The Operatives’, Pete runs a team of former special forces operatives to combat wildlife poaching, smuggling and illegal fishing in Africa, Asia, and Central America.
He also works closely with government enforcement units, training them in coastal surveillance and hostile vessel takedown. At the heart of it all, Pete is a ship captain with an environmental edge.” From Find a cause worth dying for, TedX Aukland.

“He had a good life” – the story of a magnificent orca, by Ken Balcomb

L41.    Photo credit: Center for Whale Research – WhaleResearch.com

By Ken Balcomb, Founder and Senior Scientist, Center for Whale Research

“My first acquaintance with the Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW) we designated L41 was in 1977, the year after we began the annual Orca Survey of this population that continues to this day. His mother was L11, who was one of nine females to produce new babies that year following the cessation of captures in 1976. We watched the energetic young male baby as he grew up, and we had great hopes that he and his companions would fill in the youthful cohorts of the population that had been decimated by captures between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s.

L41 last seen by the Center for Whale Research on August 11, 2019 (Encounter #51). Photo by Mark Malleson, Center for Whale Research

L41, with an adoption name Mega, traveled with his mom and sisters in a subgroup of L pod that became known as the L12s, named after his presumed grandmother, who was the likely mother of L11. It should be noted that the alpha-numeric designations are not in the birth order sequence in the early years of the Orca Survey – because nobody knew the population composition prior to our study. The whales were numbered in those early years in the order that they were first seen, and it was only after we had all of them identified in 1976 that subsequent new babies received the next sequential alpha-numeric designation for identification. L41 was among the first to receive a designation that identified him as a member of the new known-age youth cohort of the SRKW population.

L41 with L124 on January 11, 2019 (Encounter #2). Photo by Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research.

When he reached social maturity in his early twenties around 1997, L41 began to father babies. And, he became the champion male breeder in the SRKW population with fourteen known offspring that survive to this day in all three pods. Only J1, with the fathering of eleven living offspring in the SRKW community, has done as much to increase the population. A very few other males have contributed one or two offspring in this population.

L41 with L25. Photo by Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research.

We will greatly miss L41 as an important breeder and as a prominent indicator of the L12 subgroup that now rarely ventures into the Salish Sea. In 2019, we only saw the L12s twice – once on January 11 in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, and once on August 11 off Carmanah Point Lighthouse on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. It will be extremely difficult to monitor the demographic vigor of the L12s if they do not come into the study area, and if this indicator male is not present. We are hopeful that L41 is alive somewhere and returns to the subgroup, but he did live to a ripe old age and fathered more baby whales than any other whale in the community.

He had a good life.

Orcas
Unidentified orca.                                                                                                 Photo credit – Dale Mitchell, Eagle Wind Tours

 

NOAA wants to allow the Makah Tribe to kill gray whales for the next 10 years; your opinion matters

14 Nov 2019. A federal judge is currently considering the case of whether indigenous rights to kill whales should take precedence over the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and whether it is even wise to do so, given the fact that the specified population of gray whales appears to be experiencing a die off.

Gray whale carcass washed up in California.                         Photo Credit: San Francisco Chronicle

Since January 1, 2019, elevated gray whale strandings have occurred along the west coast of North America from Mexico through Alaska. This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME). (NOAA).

NOAA Fisheries data.  2019 gray whale stranings are in orange, compared to an 18 year average.

The case is currently before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) in Seattle, Washington, and the process is open to the public. There will be other opportunities to influence the decision (see details below) but if you are in the region you can attend the proceedings over the next two weeks.

“The hearing involves a proposed waiver under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and proposed regulations governing the hunting of eastern North Pacific (ENP) gray whales by the Makah Indian Tribe in northwest Washington State.
During the prehearing conference, the following new issue of fact was identified: “Is the ENP stock currently undergoing an Unusual Mortality Event (UME)? If so, does this merit further consideration before a waiver may be granted?”

The friendly whales in Baja will be among those allowed in the hunts as they migrate past Washington State.               Photo Credit: Baja Tours

(For more background on issue, please see “Tribe wants to hunt whales that have learned to trust us“).
How does this behavior:
Photo Credit: KUOW
…resemble the hunting methods when the treaties were made?
A Makah whaler with spear and sealskin floats, 1915 Photo: Edward S. Curtis Northwestern University Library

[hdnfactbox title=”Attending the Hearing: Q & A”]

Q. Is the hearing open to the public?

A. The hearing is open to the public and anyone may attend and observe, although only parties who formally intervened in the proceeding in May 2019 may participate. Given the number of parties to the case, space for spectators will be limited. Seating will be provided on a first come, first served basis. Overflow seating will be available in an adjacent room but will not have a direct view into the courtroom. We anticipate seating will be most in demand the first week of the hearing (Nov. 14-15). More seating may be available during the second week (starting Nov. 18).

Q. How do I attend the hearing?

A. The hearing will take place at the Fourth Floor Auditorium in the Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle. The building is located at 915 Second Avenue between Marion and Madison Streets, with entrances on both First and Second Avenues. The building is easily accessible from many Metro and Sound Transit routes but does not have on-site parking. Several paid parking garages are nearby. To enter the building, you must go through security screening. More information about entry requirements and prohibited items may be found at https://www.dhs.gov/faq-regarding-items-prohibited-federal-property.

Q. What is the daily schedule for the hearing?

A. The schedule for the hearing is subject to change by the Administrative Law Judge. The current schedule calls for the hearing to begin at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, and end no later than 5:00 p.m. that day. For hearing dates Friday, Nov. 15, and Monday through Thursday, Nov. 18-21, the hearing is anticipated to run 9:00 a.m. through no later than 5:00 p.m. with morning and afternoon breaks and a break for lunch. If necessary, the hearing may also take place on Friday, Nov. 22, from 9:00 a.m. until approximately noon.

Q. Who can I contact with questions?

A. If you have additional questions about attending the hearing, you may direct them to the Administrative Law Judge’s office at 206-220-7105. News media interested in covering the hearing should contact Michael Milstein of NOAA Fisheries at 503-231-6268 or michael.milstein@noaa.gov

Opportunities for Public Participation

The next opportunity will be announced at the hearing in November. The Administrative Law Judge will set a deadline for interested persons to submit written comments on the proposed waiver and regulations, including proposed findings and conclusions and written arguments or briefs. You do not have to participate as a party in order to submit comments at this stage. Written submissions must be based on the record and should cite relevant pages of the hearing transcript.
Finally, the Administrative Law Judge will issue a recommended decision following the hearing. NOAA Fisheries will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing the recommended decision, beginning a 20-day public comment period where anyone may submit written comments on the recommended decision.

[/hdnfactbox]

 

The Navy and the Blob 2.0 will impact the lives of whales, dolphins, and seals. Here’s what you can do about it.

We need the military to keep us safe,  most of us get that. We also understand that the Navy has vitally important activities that – however unfortunately – can lead to injury and death of marine mammals. The government goes to some length to insure that those Navy activities have a minimum impact by requiring them to submit fairly complex documents every five years, based in part on what impact they had in the previous five-year period.
At issue here is that although the Navy and NOAA Fisheries have already established allowable “takes” (marine mammals that can be killed or displaced) for 2019 through 2023, they now want to extend the period an additional two years without having to reassess the effect they are having on marine mammal populations. 
In other words, the Navy won’t have to take into account how much changing ocean conditions will alter the statistics – we have already seen that population distributions are changing for many whale and dolphin species as they follow their prey. For instance, gray whales appear to be starving in some cases, humpback entanglements have risen as they come in closer to shore and encounter crab pots, and diseases such as the morbillivirus decimate cetaceans in parts of their range. Young California sea lions are stranding in unprecedented numbers.
Complicating everything is that Blob 2.0 is forming off the West Coast which is expected to further alter marine mammal health and distribution (graphic and original NOAA data are below).

Comments to NOAA can be made here by October 15th:
Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the U.S. Navy Training and Testing Activities in the Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing Study Area
Please take a few minutes to submit your comment to NOAA, the process is simple but be aware that NOAA will only consider well-grounded comments in their decision making. There’s no harm in venting your feelings though, and NOAA needs to know how the public feels so any comment you care to make will be read.
 

Data from NOAA documents

“NMFS has reviewed the Navy’s data and analysis and determined that it is complete and accurate, and NMFS agrees that the following stressors have the potential to result in takes of marine mammals from the Navy’s planned activities:

Acoustics (sonar and other transducers; air guns; pile driving/extraction);

Explosives (explosive shock wave and sound, assumed to encompass the risk due to fragmentation); and

Physical Disturbance and Strike (vessel strike).”

Photo Credit: Alaska Magazine

(Level A takes are possibly lethal, Level B takes disturb or disrupt):

3,162 potentially lethal  10,775,414 disturbed/displaced during TESTING

1,598 potentially lethal   7,187,158 disturbed/displaced during TRAINING

The following is a list of species that can possibly be killed in BOTH Navy training and Navy testing activities; alarming because some species (such as dwarf sperm whales) are impacted out of scale to what is known about them:

Comments to NOAA can be made here by October 15th:
Taking and Importing Marine Mammals; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to the U.S. Navy Training and Testing Activities in the Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing Study Area

The following shows the both Level A and Level B “takes” for each species in Navy testing, followed by the list of “takes” in  Navy training activities:

Expected takes during Testing Exercises:

Level A  Level B  Species  Stock

0             205        Blue whale *      Central North Pacific
6             7,116     Blue whale *      Eastern North Pacific
0             167        Bryde’s whale † Eastern Tropical Pacific
0             631        Bryde’s whale † Hawaiian †
0             7,731     Fin whale *         California, Oregon, & Washington
0             197        Fin whale *         Hawaiian
7             7,962     Humpback whale †          California, Oregon, & Washington †
12           34,437   Humpback whale †          Central North Pacific
7             4,119     Minke whale      California, Oregon, & Washington
6             20,237   Minke whale      Hawaiian
0             333        Sei whale *         Eastern North Pacific
0             677        Sei whale *         Hawaiian
27           16,703   Gray whale †      Eastern North Pacific
0             19           Gray whale †      Western North Pacific †
0             8,834     Sperm whale *  California, Oregon, & Washington
0             10,341   Sperm whale *  Hawaiian
215        84,232   Dwarf sperm whale         Hawaiian
94           33,431   Pygmy sperm whale        Hawaiian
149        38,609   Kogia whales      California, Oregon, & Washington
0             8,524     Baird’s beaked whale      California, Oregon, & Washington
0             23,491   Blainville’s beaked whale              Hawaiian
0             47,178   Cuvier’s beaked whale    California, Oregon, & Washington
0             7,898     Cuvier’s beaked whale    Hawaiian
0             82,293   Longman’s beaked whale             Hawaiian
0             25,404   Mesoplodon spp (beaked whale guild)    California, Oregon, & Washington
0             1,295     Bottlenose dolphin          California Coastal
13           201,619               Bottlenose dolphin          California, Oregon, & Washington Offshore
0             13,080   Bottlenose dolphin          Hawaiian Pelagic
0             500        Bottlenose dolphin          Kauai & Niihau
10           57,288   Bottlenose dolphin          Oahu
0             1,052     Bottlenose dolphin          4-Island
0             291        Bottlenose dolphin          Hawaii
0             4,353     False killer whale †          Hawaii Pelagic
0             2,710     False killer whale †          Main Hawaiian Islands Insular †
0             1,585     False killer whale †          Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
4             177,198               Fraser’s dolphin Hawaiian
0             460        Killer whale         Eastern North Pacific Offshore
0             855        Killer whale         Eastern North Pacific Transient/West Coast Transient
0             513        Killer whale         Hawaiian
99           784,965               Long-beaked common dolphin    California
0             14,137   Melon-headed whale      Hawaiian Islands
0             1,278     Melon-headed whale      Kohala Resident
57           357,001               Northern right whale dolphin      California, Oregon, & Washington
19           274,892               Pacific white-sided dolphin           California, Oregon, & Washington
0             17,739   Pantropical spotted dolphin         Hawaii Island
0             42,318   Pantropical spotted dolphin         Hawaii Pelagic
0             28,860   Pantropical spotted dolphin         Oahu
0             1,816     Pantropical spotted dolphin         4-Island
0             35,531   Pygmy killer whale          Hawaiian
0             2,977     Pygmy killer whale          Tropical
45           477,389               Risso’s dolphin   California, Oregon, & Washington
0             40,800   Risso’s dolphin   Hawaiian
0             26,769   Rough-toothed dolphin  Hawaiian
0             0             Rough-toothed dolphin  NSD
307        5,875,431            Short-beaked common dolphin   California, Oregon, & Washington
6             6,341     Short-finned pilot whale               California, Oregon, & Washington
0             53,627   Short-finned pilot whale               Hawaiian
0             609        Spinner dolphin Hawaii Island
0             18,870   Spinner dolphin Hawaii Pelagic
0             1,961     Spinner dolphin Kauai & Niihau
8             10,424   Spinner dolphin Oahu & 4-Island
5             777,001               Striped dolphin  California, Oregon, & Washington
0             32,806   Striped dolphin  Hawaiian
894        171,250               Dall’s porpoise   California, Oregon, & Washington
629        460,145               California sea lion            U.S
0             3,342     Guadalupe fur seal *       Mexico
0             62,138   Northern fur seal             California
48           19,214   Harbor seal         California
5             938        Hawaiian monk seal *     Hawaiian
490        241,277               Northern elephant seal  California
Totals: 3,162 potentially lethal   10,775,414 disturbed/displaced during Testing Exercises
* ESA-listed species (all stocks) within the             HSTT Study Area.
† Only designated stocks are ESA-listed.
 

Expected takes during Training Exercises: 

Level A  Level B  Species  Stock

0             93           Blue whale *      Central North Pacific
0             5,679     Blue whale *      Eastern North Pacific
0             97           Bryde’s whale † Eastern Tropical Pacific
0             278        Bryde’s whale † Hawaiian †
7             6,662     Fin whale *         California, Oregon, & Washington
0             108        Fin whale *         Hawaiian
0             4,961     Humpback whale †          California, Oregon, & Washington †
19           23,750   Humpback whale †          Central North Pacific
0             1,855     Minke whale      California, Oregon, & Washington
0             9,822     Minke whale      Hawaiian
0             178        Sei whale *         Eastern North Pacific
0             329        Sei whale *         Hawaiian
0             13,077   Gray whale †      Eastern North Pacific
0             15           Gray whale †      Western North Pacific †
0             7,409     Sperm whale *  California, Oregon, & Washington
0             5,269     Sperm whale *  Hawaiian
197        43,374   Dwarf sperm whale         Hawaiian
83           17,396   Pygmy sperm whale        Hawaiian
94           20,766   Kogia whales      California, Oregon, & Washington
0             4,841     Baird’s beaked whale      California, Oregon, & Washington
0             11,455   Blainville’s beaked whale              Hawaiian
28           30,180   Cuvier’s beaked whale    California, Oregon, & Washington
0             3,784     Cuvier’s beaked whale    Hawaiian
0             41,965   Longman’s beaked whale             Hawaiian
15           16,383   Mesoplodon spp (beaked whale guild)    California, Oregon, & Washington
0             11,158   Bottlenose dolphin          California Coastal
8             158,700               Bottlenose dolphin          California, Oregon, & Washington Offshore
0             8,469     Bottlenose dolphin          Hawaiian Pelagic
0             3,091     Bottlenose dolphin          Kauai & Niihau
0             3,230     Bottlenose dolphin          Oahu
0             1,129     Bottlenose dolphin          4-Island
0             260        Bottlenose dolphin          Hawaii
0             2,287     False killer whale †          Hawaii Pelagic
0             1,256     False killer whale †          Main Hawaiian Islands Insular †
0             837        False killer whale †          Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
9             85,193   Fraser’s dolphin Hawaiian
0             236        Killer whale         Eastern North Pacific Offshore
0             438        Killer whale         Eastern North Pacific Transient/West Coast Transient
0             279        Killer whale         Hawaiian
34           805,063               Long-beaked common dolphin    California
0             7,678     Melon-headed whale      Hawaiian Islands
0             1,119     Melon-headed whale      Kohala Resident
22           280,066               Northern right whale dolphin      California, Oregon, & Washington
14           213,380               Pacific white-sided dolphin           California, Oregon, & Washington
0             9,568     Pantropical spotted dolphin         Hawaii Island
0             24,805   Pantropical spotted dolphin         Hawaii Pelagic
0             1,349     Pantropical spotted dolphin         Oahu
0             2,513     Pantropical spotted dolphin         4-Island
0             18,347   Pygmy killer whale          Hawaiian
0             1,928     Pygmy killer whale          Tropical
24           339,334               Risso’s dolphin   California, Oregon, & Washington
0             19,027   Risso’s dolphin   Hawaiian
0             14,851   Rough-toothed dolphin  Hawaiian
0             0             Rough-toothed dolphin  NSD
304        3,795,732            Short-beaked common dolphin   California, Oregon, & Washington
0             6,253     Short-finned pilot whale               California, Oregon, & Washington
0             29,269   Short-finned pilot whale               Hawaiian
0             1,394     Spinner dolphin Hawaii Island
0             9,534     Spinner dolphin Hawaii Pelagic
0             9,277     Spinner dolphin Kauai & Niihau
0             1,987     Spinner dolphin Oahu & 4-Island
20           371,328               Striped dolphin  California, Oregon, & Washington
0             16,270   Striped dolphin  Hawaiian
478        115,353               Dall’s porpoise   California, Oregon, & Washington
36           334,332               California sea lion            U.S
0             6,167     Guadalupe fur seal          Mexico
7             36,921   Northern fur seal             California
12           15,898   Harbor seal         California
0             372        Hawaiian monk seal        Hawaiian
187        151,754               Northern elephant seal  California
Totals:  
1,598 potentially lethal   7,187,158 disturbed/displaced during Training Exercises                       
 

Changing ocean conditions are impacting everything in the Navy permit area (and beyond)

from plankton to blue whales (the graphic is from NOAA).

The Blob 2.0


 

Airbnb now supports animal sanctuaries and opposes captive dolphin swims, elephant rides, trophy hunting…and more

Airbnb has made it easier to include animal experiences in your travel – they have created a roster of ethical rescue organizations and sanctuaries that are supported by World Animal Protection.
You won’t find Seaworld or similar amusement parks on their list, nor African hunting safaries…instead you’ll find an inspiring list of groups working hard to save animals.
“With technology taking up so much of our lives, it’s easy to feel disconnected from nature and animals,” said Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO and Co-Founder. “Maybe this is why social media is dominated by animal memes. Life is better with animals, but for many busy people, looking at them through a screen is the closest they can get. With Airbnb Animal Experiences, locals and travelers are just a few clicks away from being alongside them in the real world.“
“We know people love animals and want to see and experience them when they travel, but we also know they most want to see animals in a setting that respects their well-being,” said Alesia Soltanpanah, Executive Director World Animal Protection. “This new animal welfare policy created in consultation with our animal welfare experts combined with the creativity and dedication of Airbnb will ensure that adventurers have many options to experience the beauty of animals in a way that considers their welfare first.”

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

“Airbnb Animal Experiences are hosted by caring experts as an antidote to typical tourist attractions that are notorious for ethical concerns. You will never find an Airbnb Experience where you can kiss a dolphin or ride an elephant.”

Their policies include:

Working animals: maximum one rider and never more than 20% of the animal’s weight, never to be overworked

Marine mammals: should never be in captivity for entertainment

Broader host business: should not feature elephant rides, big cat interactions, illegal wildlife trade, sporting events such as canned and trophy hunting, animals performing for entertainment

Wild animals: there should be no direct contact including, but not limited to, petting, feeding, or riding animals

Responsible travel: no wild animals as selfie props or any negative training techniques

 

Wild Macaws Up Close    Nosara, Costa Rica Experience/811971

Featured Trips

Tea with Naughty Sheep(Loch Lomond, United Kingdom)

Meet the Dogs of Chernobyl(Slavutych, Ukraine)

Discover Arctic Foxes(Sudavik, Iceland)

New Zealand Getaway and Horseplay (Auckland, New Zealand)

Gibbon Research Assistant Experience (Phuket, Thailand)

Urban Rooftop Beekeeping(Hamilton, Canada)

Butterflies and Caterpillars Oh My!(Columbus, Ohio)

Meet Life-Saving Animals(Siem Reap, Cambodia)

See Released Macaws(Nosara, Costa Rica)

Ultimate Cape Town Birding(Cape Town, South Africa)

Wild Brooklyn Parrot Safari(Brooklyn, New York)

Go on a Safari with a Maasai Guide (Nakuru, Kenya)

Hike Runyon Canyon with a Rescue Dog(Los Angeles, CA)

A Day in a Gaucho’s Life in the Andes(Mendoza, Argentina)

 

75 beluga whales to get a boat ride to freedom in Russia

Captive belugas held in icy pens last winter are headed to freedom.
The All-Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography” (VNIRO) has made arrangements to release the last of the nearly 100 belugas and 10 killer whales into the wild after their capture was found to be illegal. While the previous releases involved long transport by container trucks and barges, weather conditions have caused the fisheries service to find a different path to freedom for the remaining whales.

 

[Background information can be found here, and updates on the condition of the captive orcas and belugas now living in the wild can be found here].

 

September 26, 2019

BELUGA WHALES WILL TRAVEL BY SEA

The research vessel VNIRO will take on board a group of belugas from Srednyaya Bay.

Animals are planned to be delivered to the Sakhalin Gulf to the coast of the Khabarovsk Territory in the area where beluga whales and killer whales were previously released as part of re-adaptation and release of marine mammals into the natural environment. The road from the bay to the place of release will take about three days.
The change in the method of transportation and release of animals was caused by the flood on the Amur River, the deterioration of roads in the Khabarovsk Territory due to heavy rains and the closure of a number of sections after flooding, which did not allow transportation according to the established scheme “motor transport / barge / motor vehicle”. Because of this, the beginning of the next operation to release animals had to be constantly postponed.
“Science has already had successful experience in releasing animals from a vessel,” said Alexey Baitalyuk, deputy director of the All-Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography, head of the Pacific branch of VNIRO. – We expect that the whole process will be successful and no weather conditions will hinder us. Transportation of animals will begin in the very near future. ”
Special baths have been prepared for belugas, in which they will feel comfortable throughout the entire route. The animals will be accompanied by specialists from the Pacific branch of VNIRO and veterinarians who will monitor their health.
VNIRO Press Service

Satellite tracks of two of the other freed belugas 9 Sept 2019, in the region where the remaining whales will be released.

 
Image credit: VNIRO

A second freed captive orca has found her family; updates on the other released Russian whales

Mixed news on the young captive orcas who were released back into the wild in Russia – while a second released orca appears to be traveling with wild killer whales, the group of four seems to have disbanded somewhat. Two of the released belugas are in an area with wild whales.

Zina with wild orcas 9 Sept 2019. Photo Credit: VNIRO

On the plus side, scientists of the All-Russian Research Institute of Fisheries and Oceanography (VNIRO) and the Institute of Ecology and Evolution Severtsov Russian Academy of Sciences (IPEE RAS) have determined that a second released captive orca is now traveling with wild whales.  From VNIRO:

During monitoring conducted on catamarans in the Shantar Islands, scientists observed a family of wild killer whales off the coast of the South Shantar archipelago. The group had at least 14 killer whales, which they managed to photograph. After a careful analysis of the photographs and their comparison with the photograph and description of animals from Srednyaya Bay, it was noted that one of the killer whales in the group has characteristic scars of the selected mark. Individual signs made it possible to identify this killer whale as Zina, released in the second installment on August 6. The animal got rid of the [satellite tag] that it was set upon release.
“Some killer whales from the wild family in which Zina was met were previously identified, included in photo catalogs and there is biological information on them,” said Vyacheslav Bizikov, deputy director for research at VNIRO. “They are classified as a carnivorous ecotype.”

The first orca who was accepted by a group of wild whales, a young female named Vasilievna, was documented hunting and sharing food with them on August 20th.
With only tracking data, it’s difficult to assess the situation of the group of four (Alexandra, Tikhon, Zoya, and Gayka) who reportedly stayed together for 10 days. The young male, Tikhon, has traveled south either alone or in the company of wild whales. The three females remain in the same general area either together, or within an easy day’s travel distance (approximately 50 miles (80 km) from each other).
Alexandra’s path (green dot with the number 3) coincides with another orca’s track so they may have traveled together at the last location on September 7th.
Because visual documentation hasn’t been reported, all we know for certain is that they are near each other in the same area as wild orcas and appear to be thriving. But that alone is good news!

According to the latest data from satellite tags, killer whales from the third issue of Zoya, Tikhon and Gadget, as well as the younger female Alexander from the second issue, who joined them, moved together for about 10 days. Then the group broke up and now three females Zoya, Gadget and Alexander are located near the island of Feklistov of the Shantar archipelago, the male Tikhon went to the Tugursky Bay.
Killer whales Kharya and Forest, having traveled from Cape Perovsky past Sakhalin Island to the open sea, returned to Sakhalin Gulf.

Forest and Kharya location 9 Sept 2019. Image Credit: VNIRO

Little has been reported on the 12 belugas who were released, but tracking data shows that at least two of them are in the same area as Tikhon:

Two belugas from the fourth issue with [tags] are also located in the Sakhalin Gulf. In this area, scientists and fishermen noted the appearance of wild killer whales and beluga whales. (Press – Service VNIRO).

Location of two belugas 9 Sept 2019.  Image Credit: VNIRO

Elephants rescued as calves return from the wild to show off their babies

Loijuk and baby Lili, accompanied by nannies Ithumbah and Naserian. Photo Credit: Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

What a joyous surprise!
On September 1st the once rescued African elephant Loijuk returned to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where she had been rescued as a calf 14 years previously. With her was her adorable calf Lili, just hours old, and two other once-rescued elephants who she has chosen to be nannies for the calf.

Together, along with other wild or re-wilded elephants, this stitched together family will protect and guide Lily through her life, all through the protective and watchful eyes of the Trust. The rescue organization has documented 31 other calves born to rescued mothers, and untold numbers sired by rescued bulls with wild mothers.
Like the recently freed orcas, these calves have shown the world that rescued wildlife can be returned to the wild to live life as nature intended.

From the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:

Loijuk when she was rescued in 2006. Photo Credit: Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

To bear witness to Loijuk becoming a mum, after we spent so many years performing a parental role and preparing her for a wild life, is the greatest reward for our endeavours.
Moments like these are precious and priceless. We are grateful to all of our foster parents and donors for your support, which enables us to be there for orphans in need, so that in the fullness of time, they can live the lives they deserve.
With mum Loijuk by her side and protective nannies Naserian and Ithumbah also on-hand, as well as our ever-watchful field teams looking out for them all, Lili has a bright future ahead of her and we look forward to watching this little girl grow up in the wild.
To learn more about our Orphans’ Project, visit https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/projects/orphans


 
 

4 released captive orcas in Russia are hunting together, including little Alexandra

It looks as though Alexandra, the youngest killer whale to be released, has joined three of the other freed orcas in the Shantar Islands area of the Sea of Okhotsk.

Of the 10 killer whales who were returned to the sea where they had been captured, only Alexandra needed initial support following her release.
She had become separated from the other two orcas in her group (Vitas and Nut) and wound up hanging around fishing boats where she was fed. Then she headed over a hundred miles to the north, where she continued to pluck the occasional fish from nets and appeared to hunt successfully on her own.
But what great news; Alexandra has returned south and joined up with Tikhon, Zoya, and Gadget who were released a few weeks after her. If she stays with them, her chances of survival are as high as the others.

Map of locations
Alexandra, Tikhon, Zoya, and Gadget together in the Shantar Islands (Sea of Okhotsk) Image Credit: VNIRO

It’s inspiring to follow these intelligent animals as they adjust to life back in the wild – studies of wild orca populations have shown that their cultures and dialects vary and at this point, we don’t know how those factors play into which whales remain together. Gender, age, personality, food abundance, locating family members, and changing ocean conditions may also contribute to the ultimate success of each whale.
Genetic tests showed that these are mammal-eating type orcas…yet they had been fed fish while they were in captivity. Will they expand their dietary preferences now? Or go back to eating the seals and sea lions of the region exclusively? The winter conditions in that region are challenging, and it is most likely that they will select the more calorie rich mammals, but a lot depends on what they can find.
One of the first released orcas, Vasilyevna, has found a place in a group of wild whales, where she was observed hunting seals and food sharing with others. She was released with Lyokha, but his satellite tag stopped working and there are no reports on his location.
There are no updates as yet on Forest and Kharya, the last to be released.