Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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)

 

“Let us not take this planet for granted” – Academy Award winner Leo DiCaprio, the environment, and you

 

“Climate change is real, and it’s happening right now,” DiCaprio said . “It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world…and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.”
 

Photo source
Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant.                                                                             Photo Source

 
In Washington State, four legislators who consistently voted to dismantle legislation protecting the environment, wildlife, and use of public lands hope that they will get re-elected.  It is up to you whether or not they are allowed to block efforts to halt climate change for another term.
Washington Conservation Voters
“Despite the strong environmental ethos in much of the Washington delegation, overall 2015 will go down as the most anti-environmental Congress in our history.”
…“Once again, too many members of Congress were complicit in extreme attacks on both bedrock environmental laws and more recent progress to protect our air, water, public lands and wildlife,” said Shannon Murphy, President of Washington Conservation Voters. “Despite last year being the hottest year on record, Congressional leaders put polluters’ agenda ahead of the health of Washingtonians, environmental protections and climate action. This is particularly disappointing from members of the Washington delegation, where we have long had a bipartisan tradition of environmental protection.”
Will we have a healthy planet for future generations? (Photo source)
Will we have a healthy planet for future generations? (Photo source)

Washington State Delegation Scores On Environmental Issues:
Senate:
Cantwell 96
Murray 96
House:
1 DelBene, 94
2 Larsen, R., 94
3 Herrera Beutler, 6
4 Newhouse, 3
5 McMorris Rodgers, 0
6 Kilmer, 94
7 McDermott, 100
8 Reichert, 6
9 Smith, Adam, 89
10 Heck, D., 97
Newhouse, McMorris, and Reichert all voted to support H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (SHARE Act), while Herrera refrained from voting on this measure.
From Born Free: One of the most devastating provisions contains several alarming rollbacks of long-standing federal environmental and public land laws including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Wilderness Act, and the National Forest Management Act. In the process, it reduces or eliminates important protections for America’s public lands that have been in place for decades. For example, the bill would including trapping under the definition of hunting, conflating two entirely different activities and thereby opening hundreds of millions of public lands to cruel trapping. In addition, the bill would force land managers to prioritize hunting and trapping above other outdoor activities, effectively excluding a large proportion of the American public from enjoying national spaces that belong to all of us. This and other changes in H.R. 2406 are in direct conflict with the stated purpose of the Wilderness Act, which is to establish areas “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
Lek Chailert, founder of Elephant Nature Park
Lek Chailert, founder of Elephant Nature Park

The African Elephant Conservation and Legal Ivory Possession Act, rolled into H.R. 2406, would halt efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to crack down on the illegal ivory trade, particularly by undoing the restrictions on U.S. ivory imports and exports. African elephants are facing the greatest poaching crisis since the 1980s: more than 100,000 were killed from 2010 to 2012 – an average of one every 15 minutes. The appalling scale of poaching is intertwined with violent militias, organized crime, and government corruption in Africa. A crucial element of halting this ongoing slaughter is addressing the demand for ivory within our own borders. The regulations proposed by the FWS prohibit most imports and exports, and limit other commercial actions to ivory that was lawfully imported prior to 1990 (the date that elephants’ endangered status was elevated by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species). Prohibiting FWS from implementing these vital regulations would be an enormous step backward in the U.S.’s response to the wildlife trafficking crisis.
These baby elephants were orphaned by ivory poachers. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)
These baby elephants were orphaned by ivory poachers. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

“Other provisions in this huge bill would prevent the public from having a say in National Wildlife Refuge decisions, and waive important environmental reviews for this system as well.
Such blind dedication to implementing recreational killing is detrimental to both conservation efforts and the public interest.”
 

Climate impacts in the Northwest – Trump wants the EPA to remove all climate data from the website (copied here)

“If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,” one official told Reuters soon after the order to shut down the website was sent.” The Independent.
Nothing may come of Trump’s demand that the EPA remove all references to climate change, but this information may become harder to find. The information on the main EPA climate page is extensive and worth checking out. Only the information about the Northwest is copied here.

Climate Impacts in the Northwest


Overview

The Northwest is best known for its vast Pacific coastline and rainy weather. The region is home to the Cascade Mountain Range that runs north-south through Washington and Oregon, resulting in large climatic differences on the western and eastern sides of the range. West of the mountains, year-round temperatures are mild, winters are wet, and summers are dry. East of the mountains, it is typically sunnier and drier throughout the year, winters are colder, and summers can be significantly hotter.[1]
Over the last century, the average annual temperature in the Northwest has risen by about 1.3°F.[2] Temperatures are projected to increase by approximately 3°F to 10°F by the end of the century, with the largest increases expected in the summer.[2] Precipitation in the region has seen a decline in both the amount of total snowfall and the proportion of precipitation falling as snow. Declines in snowpack and streamflows have been observed in the Cascades in recent decades. In Washington state, record low snowpack values were measured in April 2015 and in seventy-four percent of long-term monitoring stations.[3] Changes in average annual precipitation in the Northwest are likely to vary over the century. Summer precipitation is projected to decline by as much as 30%, with less frequent but heavier downpours.[2]

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Impacts on Water Resources

A reliable supply of water is crucial for energy production, agriculture, and ecosystems. Much of the Northwest’s water is stored naturally in winter snowpack in the mountains. The snowpack melts and replenishes streams and rivers in the late spring and summer, when there is very little rainfall. Climate change threatens this natural storage by changing the timing of snowmelt and the amount of water available in streams and rivers (streamflow) throughout the year.[2] Warmer springs contribute to earlier melting of the snowpack, higher streamflows in late winter and early spring, and lower flows in summer. Spring snowmelt is projected to occur three to four weeks earlier by mid-century and summer streamflows are likely to decline.[2] In the Cascade Mountains, measurements of snowpack taken on April 1 (when snowpack is usually at its peak) have decreased by about 20% since the 1950s.[2]
Climate change can also lead to changes in the type of precipitation. Warmer winters cause more precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow, particularly at lower elevations. This reduces soil moisture, snow accumulation, and the amount of water available from snowmelt.[2][4] Further, increased flood risks around rivers that receive waters from both winter rains and peak runoff in late spring are expected.[2]
Changing streamflows are likely to strain water management and worsen existing competition for water. Competing demands for water currently include hydropower, agricultural irrigation, municipal and industrial uses, and protection of ecosystems and threatened or endangered species. Increasing temperatures and populations could deepen demand and further stress urban water supplies that are already at risk of diminishing because of climate change.[2]
Forty percent of the nation’s hydropower is generated in the Northwest.[2] Lower streamflows will likely reduce hydroelectric supply and could lead to large economic losses in the region. Reduced streamflows combined with rising temperatures and a growing population are raising concerns about the ability to meet increased air conditioning and other electricity demands.[2]
For more information on climate change impacts, please visit the Water Resources Impacts or the Energy Impacts pages.
Projected changes to runoff and summer streamflows in the Northwest by the 2040s. Runoff is expected to decrease by 40 - 50 % in mountainous areas and 5 - 30 % in most other areas. Streamflows are also negatively impacted in roughly the same areas.Natural surface water availability during late summer is projected to decline across most of the Northwest. This map shows expected changes in local runoff (shading) and streamflow (colored circles) for the 2040s (compared to the period 1915 to 2006), assuming that heat-trapping greenhouse gases will be reduced in the future. Source: USGCRP 2014[6]
Click the image to view a larger version.

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Impacts on Coastal Resources

Climate change is damaging the Northwest coastline. Projections indicate an increase of 1 to 4 feet of global sea level rise by the end of the century, which may have implications for the 140,000 acres of the region that lie within 3.3 feet of high tide.[2] Sea level rise and storm surge pose a risk to people, infrastructure, and ecosystems, especially in low lying areas, which include Puget Sound. Warming waters and ocean acidification threaten economically important marine species and coastal ecosystems.[2]Map of Seattle showing areas projected to fall below sea level during high tide by end of the century. The high (50 inches) and medium (13 inches) estimates are within current projections. The highest level (88 inches) includes the effect of storm surge.Many areas of Seattle are projected to fall below sea level during high tide by the end of the century. Shaded blue areas depict three levels of sea level rise, assuming no adaptation. The high (50 inches) and medium (13 inches) estimates are within the range of current projections, while the highest level (88 inches) includes the effect of storm surge. Source: USGCRP 2014[6]
Flooding, seawater inundation, and erosion are expected to threaten coastal infrastructure, including properties, highways, railways, wastewater treatment plants, stormwater outfalls, and ferry terminals. Coastal wetlands, tidal flats, and beaches are likely to erode or be lost as a result of seawater inundation, which heightens the vulnerability of coastal infrastructure to coastal storms.
Some coastal habitats may disappear if organisms are unable to migrate inland because of topography or human infrastructure. This is expected to affect shorebirds and small forage fish, among other species. Warmer waters in regional estuaries, including Puget Sound, may contribute to an increase in harmful algal blooms, which could result in beach closures and declines in recreational shellfish harvests. Ocean acidification is also expected to negatively impact important economic species, including oysters and Pacific salmon.
For more information on climate change impacts on coastal resources, please visit the Coastal Resources page.

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Impacts on Ecosystems and Agriculture

Higher temperatures, changing streamflows, and increases in pests and disease threaten forests, agriculture, and fish populations in the Northwest.[2]
Forests make up nearly half of the Northwest landscape. These areas provide important habitat for fish and wildlife and support local economies, recreation, and traditional tribal activities.[2] Forests have become warmer and drier due to rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, and reduced soil moisture. These stresses make trees more susceptible to insect outbreaks and disease and make forests highly flammable. An increase in the number and size of wildfires has been observed in the region in recent decades.[2] These impacts are expected to worsen in the future, resulting in larger areas burned each year and expanded spread of pests, including the mountain pine beetle. Some types of forests and other ecosystems at high elevations are also expected to disappear from the region by the end of the century from inability to survive changing climatic conditions.[2] These changes are likely to have significant effects on local timber revenues and bioenergy markets.
Areas burned from 1984-2008 or affected by insects or disease from 1997-2008. Expected increase in area burned resulting from 2.2°F average temperature increase ranges from 100-200% up to a 500-600% increase through eastern OR, middle of ID and western MTUnder hotter, drier conditions, insects and fire can have large cumulative impacts on forests. This is expected to be the dominant driver of forest change in the near future. The top map shows areas burned between 1984 and 2008 or affected by insects or disease between 1997 and 2008. The bottom map indicates the expected increase in area burned resulting from a 2.2°F warming in average temperature. Source: USGCRP 2014[6]
Click the image to view a larger version.Commercial fish and shellfish harvested in the Northwest were valued at $480 million in 2011.[2] Warming waters have already contributed to earlier migration of sockeye salmon in some streams and earlier growth of algal blooms in some lakes. Warmer waters are likely to increase spring and summer disease and mortality in Chinook and sockeye salmon in some river basins. Species that spend all or part of their lives in rivers, including salmon, steelhead, and trout, will suffer from decreased summer flows and increased flooding and winter flows. Projections suggest that suitable habitat for the four trout species in the region will decline by an average of 47% near the end of this century, compared to past decades.[2]
Ocean acidification is also expected to negatively impact shellfish, including oysters, and others species, including Pacific salmon, resulting in economic and cultural implications. Warmer coastal waters may alter migratory patterns and areas of suitable habitat for marine species, resulting in changes in abundances.
Agriculture is an important economic and cultural component in rural areas of the Northwest. In the short-term, a longer growing season and higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide may be beneficial to crops.[2] In the longer-term, reduced water availability for irrigation, higher temperatures, and changes in pests, diseases, and weeds may harm crop yields.

Threatened Salmon Populations

Photograph of salmon jumping and swimming upstream.Salmon swimming upstream. Credit: US Fish and Wildlife ServiceHuman activities already threaten Northwest salmon populations. These activities include dam building, logging, pollution, and overfishing. Climate change impacts further stress these salmon populations. Salmon are particularly sensitive due to their seasonally timed migration upstream to breed. Higher winter streamflows and earlier peak steamflows due to climate change will damage spawning nests, wash away incubating eggs, and force young salmon from rivers prematurely. Lower summer streamflows and warmer stream and ocean temperatures are less favorable for salmon and other cold-water fish species. These climate change impacts facilitate the spread of salmon diseases and parasites. Many salmon species are already considered threatened or endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. Studies show that by 2100, one third of current habitat for Northwest salmon and other coldwater fish will be too warm for these species to tolerate.[5]

For more information on climate change impacts on forests, please visit the Forests Impacts page.
For more information on climate change impacts on agriculture and food supply, please visit the Agriculture and Food Supply Impacts page.

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References

[1] U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2011). Climate Change in the Pacific Northwest .

[2] USGCRP (2014) Mote, P., A. K. Snover, S. Capalbo, S. D. Eigenbrode, P. Glick, J. Littell, R. Raymondi, and S. Reeder, 2014: Ch. 21: Northwest. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment, J. M. Melillo, Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and G. W. Yohe, Eds., U.S. Global Change Research Program, 487-513.

[3] U.S. Department of Agriculture. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington. Accessed June 1, 2015.

[4] US EPA (2016). Climate Change Indicators in the United States: Trends in April Snowpack in the Western United States, 1955-2016.

[5] USGCRP (2009). Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. Karl, T.R., J. M. Melillo, and T. C. Peterson (eds.). United States Global Change Research Program. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, USA.

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Courageous rescue of killer whales trapped among ice floes in Russia

Photo by Sakhalin Oblast EMERCOM press service.
Photo by Sakhalin Oblast EMERCOM press service.

In April last year, four killer whales were found trapped among ice floes in the frigid water off the coast of Russia – the baby was separated from its mother and at risk of drowning while a young young male, wedged in shallow water, cried relentlessly to his family.
It must have been a daunting task, yet rescuers eased themselves into the water and went to work. Worldwide, people do what they can to help stranded whales and dolphins – but this story  reflects both the courage and preparedness needed to help these large and stressed whales in dangerously inhospitable conditions. In December they were each awarded well-earned medals for their efforts.
Here is their story, as recorded and shared by rescuer Peter van der Wolf:

Peter van der Wolf shares his experience rescuing the trapped orca.
Peter van der Wolf recounts the rescue of orcas trapped among ice floes in Russia.

“During the night from 18-19 April, the wind had changed and blew sea ice straight towards the shore. A vast pack of an about 5 km wide ice field had piled up at the shoreline of the village Starodubskoye ( which means “Old Oak village).
A pod of at least 4 orcas got trapped near shore in very shallow water, surrounded by a dense amount of ice floes. Orcas usually appear this time of the year at the edge of sea ice, hunting for seals.

The EMERCOM rescue officers were alarmed and arrived on scene during the morning of April 19.

Officers had been in the water from 12.30 (almost right after their arrival) til 6.30 PM in dry suits, trying to keep the ice away from the orcas and even preventing the baby from drowning.

The young whale almost got crushed between ice floes and one officers manged to keep the ice away, using his legs and a long wooden pole and thus creating a window for the baby to join with his mum in more open water.

Later that night we all at some point got sandwiched between these ice floes which apparently just seem to float, but due to their mass are so inert and difficult to stop when they are coming your direction. Especially in shallow water, ankles and knees got often stuck and almost squashed by the hardened, sharp edges of the ice. I think that is what we all felt as the most scary and dangerous part.

Photo by Sakhalin Oblast EMERCOM press service.
Photo by Sakhalin Oblast EMERCOM press service

They spent the whole day keeping the ice as far away as they could from the orcas and in the afternoon of April 19 at around 15.30 hrs, a mother with calf and another young whale managed to find a way out through the shifting ice floes.

The [young] male of about 10 years old remained the closest to the shore in a pool of shallow water, partly blocked by rocks and ice floes. Two divers from Dive Club Sakhalin volunteered and were keeping the whale wet, avoiding dehydration of the vulnerable skin.

I was called by local people to come over and help at about 16.00 hrs and I contacted my friends at Klub Bumerang, a very active environmental orientated – Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk based NGO, to find out what we could do.

Photo by Sakhalin Oblast EMERCOM press service.
Photo by Sakhalin Oblast EMERCOM press service.

When we all arrived on scene at 19.00 hrs we assessed the situation while we still had a few hours of daylight and we tried to spot for an escape route. At 21.40 hrs it became low water and high water was expected at 4.00 hrs the next morning, so we knew we had a small window. The EMERCOM officers were tired and needed rest after being out on the ice the whole day.

Klub Bumerang sent a truck with additional volunteers, equipment and dry suits to the village Starodubskoye. I was in contact with Russian marine mammal expert Olga Sphak in Moscow, and discussed treatment and medication.

When Klub Bumerang arrived, quickly a big tent with a propane heat canon was deployed and volunteers started  making soup and tea.

At the same time we  received medication from Yuzhno and together with para medic Ekaterina I prepared a mild dose of dexametazone, a drug that (amongst others) stabilises breathing and heart rate. The male orca had been trapped already for more than 12 hours and his frequent crying sounded like distress calls.  We knew we had to keep him out there that night, because another days in shallow water might be fatal.

Photo by Dmitry Kovalev
Photo by Dmitry Kovalev

We all dressed in dry-suits and waded about 100 meter through the chest deep water (-1 Celsius) [30 F] to the orca. It was already dark by then. Andrey, one of the volunteers (electrician by profession) had installed a huge flood light that gave us enough light to work in.

Ekaterina and I prepared the injection, we had to use a huge syringe to penetrate the very strong and thick skin. We managed. We covered the orca with sleeping bags because when orcas don’t swim they may get hypothermia. Ekatherina and I carefully applied Vaseline around the blowhole to avoid hydration of the sensitive skin.

Photo by Dmitry Kovalev
Photo by Dmitry Kovalev

Everyone was very cold after being in the water for about 2 hours and we quickly returned to the shore were we had warm tea and soup. We had a short break for about half an hour and after midnight we returned back the orca, which was already nicknamed “Willy”. Checking water depth and underwater obstacles like rocks, we found a more or less suitable way, hoping for the high water tide to help. Willy had to leave the small pool where he had been lying in for so many hours and we started to remove the ice floes. 6 rescuers turned very gently and careful the 7 meter long, 6,5 ton whale and maneuvering him out of his pool.

I went ahead in a small raft to check water depth and show where we had to move Willy.

Working in such cold water, surrounded by ice floes is not without risk. As the tide rose, the waves picked up and we had to be very careful with ice floes propelled by waves, crushing in on us, the boats and the whale. And one uncoordinated move of the almost 7 ton orca could squeeze a rescue worker like a fly.

The orca seemed to understand what was going on. Rescuers where constant near him, grasping his pectoral flippers and tail, pushing his body slowly forward. Willy did a very clever thing and it took us a while to understand why he did it: when the water became too shallow, he turned on his side. We were thinking : “Oh, now he dies….” but because of his elongated flippers protruding 50 cm under his body, the flippers were actually hindering him in shallow water. They would make him higher in the water, so when he turned on his side, he was able to retract one flipper under his body, reducing his “height” and thus becoming smaller. Lying on his side, he wriggled his body over stones, and at times exhaling his breath and trimming his buoyancy, his body became even less wide. We were waiting for a small waves,  so we could push him this way very slowly to deeper water.

Photo by Sakhalin Oblast EMERCOM press service.
Photo by Sakhalin Oblast EMERCOM press service.

It took us about 3 hours to move him 130 meters, and we were very lucky that the tide was rising. I was in the water, steering his huge tail fin whilst the Bumerang and EMERCOM rescuers were pushing his pectoral fins. We literally steered him around all obstacles until the water became too deep for us.

Now it was up to Willy. We at one instance noted that his enormous dorsal fin, which had been collapsed for many, many hours (usually a sign of distress, sickness or depression in orcas) suddenly stood up had grown back to its full majestic length. The orca started to beat his big tail on the water and shaking his head up and down, pushing him self forward through the last part of shallow water. He seemed to gather his strength for a moment and with a loud squeal and blow, he really took off like a torpedo, into the dark night and heading for open sea.

The emotion we all felt was sheer happiness, tears, cries, joy…..no words to describe.

Willy got free near 5.30 hrs. on April 20.  One of the most beautiful dawns we all ever witnessed….. a pink-greenish light at the horizon told us, another day for the orca and his pod.

Another surprise waited us.The wind had shifted again during the night and the pack ice that had closed the shoreline was broken and huge pieces of open water were visible. We all knew that Willy was looking for his pod or perhaps already had joined it

The EMERCOM rescue workers and Klub Bumerang started packing their gear and all left at day break. So amazing how a small group of people became so close to each other, when working together in this kind of circumstances.”

The rescuers received medals from the Federal МЧС for their involvement during the rescue of orcas that stranded in Staradubsk, Russia.
Peter van der Wolf is among the rescuers who received medals from the Federal МЧС for their involvement during the rescue of orcas that stranded in Staradubsk, Russia.

Trump removed this climate change page from the White House website (copied here)

Trump has been in office for about an hour and has already taken down Obama’s climate change page, so I’ve copied it here for future reference. It can also be found archived here.
“Someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safe, more stable world?” – President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013

2016 was the hottest year on record.
2016 was the hottest year on record.

The Obama Administration:
ENERGY, CLIMATE CHANGE,
AND OUR ENVIRONMENT

The President has taken unprecedented action to build the foundation for a clean energy economy, tackle the issue of climate change, and protect our environment.
The Obama administration is taking action to combat climate change. In June 2013, President Obama outlined the Climate Action Plan — the steps his Administration would take to cut carbon pollution, help prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and continue to lead international efforts to address global climate change. For the sake of our children and future generations, we must act now. And we are.
Get the overview of the President’s Climate Action Plan
Cutting Carbon Pollution in America
“I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.” – President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013
The United States is leading global efforts to address the threat of climate change. Since 2005, the United States has reduced its total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. Wind power has tripled, and energy from the sun has increased tenfold. President Obama has taken a series of common-sense steps to curb carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases through initiatives that drive energy efficiency, promote clean energy, and put in place the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants.
The Path Toward a Clean Energy Economy
Reducing Carbon Pollution from Power Plants
Power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions. We have already set limits for arsenic, mercury, and lead, but there is currently no federal rule to prevent power plants from releasing as much carbon pollution as they want. Many states, local governments, and companies have led the way forward toward cleaner electricity sources.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a common-sense approach to developing carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. In September 2013, EPA announced proposed standards for new power plants and initiated outreach to a wide variety of stakeholders to help inform the development of emission guidelines for existing plants. In June 2014, EPA released the Clean Power Plan — the first-ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants that will protect the health of our children and put our nation on the path toward a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the power sector by 2030. In addition, the Plan will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion per year in 2030 and will cut pollution that leads to soot and smog by over 25 percent in 2030.
Accelerating Clean Energy Leadership
The Obama administration has made real progress in developing a wide range of initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions through clean energy policies. Since President Obama took office, the U.S. has increased solar electricity generation by more than ten-fold, and tripled electricity production from wind power. Building on the advancements of the first term, we continue to take new and comprehensive action to encourage cleaner forms of American-made energy. Through public-private partnerships, streamlining the federal permitting process, and furthering American leadership in clean energy, we are on track to meet our clean-energy goals: to install 100 megawatts of renewable capacity across federally subsidized housing by 2020, permit 10 gigawatts of renewable projects on public lands by 2020, deploy 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations by 2025, and double wind and solar electricity generation in the United States — once again — by 2025.
RENEWABLES ON PUBLIC LANDS
When President Obama took office in 2009, there were zero renewables projects on public lands, and there was no process in place to move forward the hundreds of pending applications from American businesses that wanted to harness renewable energy to help power the U.S. Since President Obama took office, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has approved over 50 wind, solar, and geothermal utility-scale projects on public or tribal lands. Together, these projects can support more than 20,000 U.S. jobs and generate enough electricity to power 4.8 million homes.
EXPANDING AND MODERNIZING THE ELECTRIC GRID
Our nation’s electric transmission grid is the backbone of our economy, a key factor in future economic growth, and a critical component of our energy security. Expanding and modernizing our grid provides improved access to remote sources of solar and wind energy, reduces power outages, saves consumers money, and speeds the creation of thousands of construction and operations jobs. President Obama has put forth initiatives to help develop principles for establishing energy corridors; encourage the use of designated energy corridors in western states; expedite the review of transmission projects in non-western states; and improve the overall transmission siting, permitting, and review processes. You can read more on the Presidential Memorandum on Transforming our Nation’s Electric Grid.
STAYING ON THE CUTTING EDGE
While we are taking action to encourage the adoption of cleaner forms of energy, we also recognize that future technologies will be crucial in our transition to a clean energy economy. That is why President Obama created the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) in 2009. This Agency helps to advance high-impact energy projects that have the potential to transform the way we generate, store, and use energy. Every year, the President’s budget continues to invest in the crucial programs that will keep the United States at the forefront of clean energy research, development, and deployment.
Building a 21st Century Clean Energy Infrastructure
The Obama administration has proposed the toughest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles in U.S. history, requiring an average performance equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Administration has also finalized the first-ever fuel economy standards for commercial trucks, vans, and buses for model years 2014-2018. These standards are projected to save over 500 million barrels of oil and save vehicle owners and operators an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs. Continuing on this progress, in 2014, the President directed his Administration to develop and issue the next phase of fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles. These standards help consumers save money at the pump, lower carbon emissions, and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Thanks in part to tighter fuel economy standards, U.S. oil demand has declined. More broadly, the Administration will continue to support research and leverage partnerships between the private and public sectors to deploy cleaner fuels.
Cutting Energy Waste in Homes, Businesses, and Factories
Energy efficiency is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to save families money, make our businesses more competitive, create American jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. The Obama administration has developed several initiatives to further drive energy efficiency, including developing energy conservation standards for appliances and equipment, partnering with rural electric cooperatives to make energy efficiency accessible to rural America, completing home efficiency upgrades to save families hundreds of dollars on their utility bills, and partnering with the private sector to advance energy efficiency over billions of square feet of building space through the President’s Better Buildings Challenge.
Reducing Other Greenhouse Gases
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — a known “super-pollutant” — are factory-made gases used primarily in air conditioning and refrigeration and are among the fastest-growing greenhouse gases in the world. Unless fast action is taken, the emissions of HFCs in the United States are expected to nearly triple by 2030. To reduce emissions of HFCs, the United States is leading through both domestic actions and international diplomacy. Domestically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed two new rules in 2014 under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program that would smooth the transition from HFCs to climate-friendly alternatives by expanding the list of acceptable alternatives and limiting use of some of the most harmful HFCs were lower-risk alternatives are available. In addition, the President has directed his Administration to purchase cleaner alternatives to HFCs whenever feasible and transition over time to equipment that uses safer and more sustainable alternatives. Internationally, the Administration has been working with foreign governments and other stakeholders — including industry, environmental groups, and foundation partners — to push for an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would phase down the production and consumption of HFCs globally.
Methane — another potent greenhouse gas — accounted for nearly 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 and is projected to increase to a level equivalent to over 620 million tons of carbon pollution in 2030, if action is not taken. That is why in March 2014, the Administration released a Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions that builds on progress to date and takes steps to further cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, agriculture, and oil and gas systems. The Administration is making progress in these sectors, and in January 2015 announced a new goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Achieving the Administration’s goal would save up to 180 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2025 — enough to heat more than 2 million homes for a year. The steps announced today are also a sound economic and public health strategy because reducing methane emissions means capturing valuable fuel that is otherwise wasted and reducing other harmful pollutants — a win for public health and the economy.
Leading by Example
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
In 2009, President Obama set aggressive energy and sustainability goals for the federal government — the largest energy consumer in the U.S. economy — by directing agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from sources such as building energy use and fuel consumption by 28 percent by 2020 and increase deployment of renewable energy. Agencies are on track to meet these goals and have already cut greenhouse emissions by more than 17 percent as of 2013, with 9 percent of federal government electricity now from renewable sources. The Administration has also expanded energy performance contracts from $2 billion to $4 billion to provide energy efficiency upgrades for federal buildings, at no net cost to the taxpayer. By meeting the President’s goals, federal agencies can avoid up to $11 billion in energy costs and eliminate the equivalent of 235 million barrels of oil over the next decade.
THE U.S. MILITARY
As part of the President’s commitment to a strong national defense, the Department of Defense (DOD) is harnessing energy efficiency and new energy technologies to give our troops better energy options on the battlefield, at sea, in the air, and at home. DOD is investing in better aircraft engines, hybrid electric drives for ships, and higher building efficiency at facilities worldwide. DOD — the single-largest consumer of energy in the United States — is committed to deploying 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military installations, including solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal, by 2025. To guide future investments and policy, the Operational Energy Strategy Implementation Plan, released in March 2012, serves as a roadmap to transform the way the Department uses energy in military operations.
Preparing for the Impacts of Climate Change
“This plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid. States and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready.” – President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013
Climate change is not a distant threat — we are already feeling its impacts across the country. The weather is getting more extreme, as droughts, wildfires, and floods are becoming more frequent and intense. Climate impacts have affected every region across the nation and inflicted large costs on the U.S. economy. That is why states, cities, tribes, and communities across America are taking steps to prepare for the impacts of climate change.
Building a More Climate-Resilient America
Assess the Impacts of Climate Change
The Obama administration continues to advance the science of climate measurement and adaptation and the development of tools for climate-relevant decision-making — by focusing on increasing the availability, accessibility, and utility of relevant scientific tools and information. In May 2014, the Administration released the Third U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA), the most authoritative and comprehensive source of scientific information ever generated about climate-change impacts in America. The NCA finds that climate change is already having a wide range of important impacts across all U.S. regions and key sectors of the national economy. The clear and tailored information presented in the NCA is a critical resource for informing climate preparedness and response decisions across the nation. The NCA can be accessed here.
Support and Learn from Local Leaders
The President is committed to supporting communities taking steps to protect themselves from extreme weather and other climate impacts. As part of his Climate Action Plan, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the Administration on how the federal government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. In November 2014, the Task Force, which includes 26 state, local, and tribal leaders from across the country who have first-hand experience building climate preparedness and resilience in their communities, delivered their recommendations to the White House. Learn more about the Task Force.
Make Climate-Resilient Investments
The Task Force emphasized the importance of ensuring that all public investments are made with future conditions in mind, so they last as long as they should. Federal agencies are already responding to this feedback by incorporating considerations of climate risk into their funding programs. Examples include the Environmental Protection Agency’s grants for brownfields cleanup, the Department of Transportation’s latest Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funding opportunity, and NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management program.
Additionally, the Administration has worked to incentivize and remove barriers to community resilience. This includes launching competitions to spur innovation where it is needed most — like the $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition to help communities working to rebuild smarter and stronger from recent natural disasters. USDA has invested in the reliability and resilience of the nation’s rural electric grid, and the Department of the Interior is supporting tribal preparedness with a $10 million Federal-Tribal Climate Resilience Partnership and Technical Assistance Program.
Rebuild and Learn from Hurricane Sandy
In August 2013, the President’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force delivered a rebuilding strategy that is serving as a model for communities across the nation recovering from disasters. The Administration is committed to ensuring that communities recovering from disaster are rebuilt to be more resilient to future climate challenges such as rising sea levels, extreme heat, and more frequent and intense storms. In the Sandy-affected region, the $50 billion relief package is being used in innovative ways to support rebuilding for the future. Examples include the HUD-sponsored Rebuild by Design competition and the Federal Transit Administration’s new funding for resilience projects designed and built to address current and future vulnerabilities to a public transportation system, including those imposed by climate change.
Promote Resilience in the Health Sector
The Department of Health and Human Services has launched an effort to develop a set of resources and tools that will promote hospital resilience in the face of climate change. As part of this initiative, the Administration released a best practices guide for health care providers, design professionals, policymakers, and others to promote resilience and continuity of care before, during, and after extreme weather events. Through a public-private partnership with the health care industry, the Administration will also provide new tools and guidance on affordable measures to ensure that our medical system is resilient to climate impacts. It will also collaborate with partner agencies to share best practices among federal health facilities. The Administration continues to advance the availability of health-related tools as part of the Climate Data Initiative to assist local leaders and public health professionals in addressing climate impacts on the populations they serve.
Provide Data and Tools to Support Climate Resilience
The Administration is committed to giving communities across America the information and tools they need to plan for current and future climate impacts, such as flooding and sea-level rise. In March 2014, the Administration launched the Climate Data Initiative, an ambitious effort to make vast federal data resources on climate change risks and impacts openly available and leverage commitments from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools for local communities. In November 2014, the Administration launched the Climate Resilience Toolkit, a website that provides centralized, authoritative, easy-to-use information, tools, and best practices to help communities prepare for and boost their resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Building on the existing network of federal climate-science research and action centers, the Department of Agriculture created seven new Regional Climate Hubs to deliver tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to help them adapt to climate change and weather variability. The Department of Transportation has developed science-based tools such as their Climate Data Processing Tool for understanding climate change effects on transportation projects. Building on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sea-level projections, the Army Corps of Engineers has created a Sea-Level Calculator to better plan for sea-level rise on coastal infrastructure investments.
Reduce Risk of Droughts and Wildfires
In November 2013, the Administration launched the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP), an alliance of federal agencies working to help communities better prepare for droughts and reduce the impact of drought events on families and businesses. The NDRP goal is to make it easier to access federal drought resources by linking information — such as monitoring, forecasts, outlooks, and early warnings — with longer-term resilience strategies in critical sectors such as agriculture, municipal water systems, and energy. NDRP leverages the work of existing federal investments such as the National Integrated Drought Information System.
In April 2014, the Administration released the final phase of the National Wildfire Cohesive Strategy, a collaborative strategy for federal, state and local action to better prevent, prepare for, and recover from wildfire. The strategy supports states, communities, businesses, farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders who are working to prepare for a drier future.
Leading International Efforts to Combat Global Climate Change
“What we need is an agreement that’s ambitious — because that’s what the scale of the challenge demands. We need an inclusive agreement — because every country has to play its part. And we need an agreement that’s flexible — because different nations have different needs.” – President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013
Just as no country is immune from the impacts of climate change, no country can meet this challenge alone. America continues to lead the international community in driving action to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for climate impacts — and is helping to forge a truly global solution to this global challenge.
Leading Public-Sector Financing Toward Cleaner Energy
The President put forth an initiative to end public financing for new coal-fired power plants overseas, except in rare circumstances. Following the lead of the U.S., other nations — including the U.K., the Netherlands, and the Nordic countries — have joined the initiative.
Bilateral Cooperation with Major Economies
We are making progress with key partners on issues areas such as renewable energy deployment, hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions, vehicle emissions standards, energy efficiency, and clean energy initiatives. In November, President Obama and President Xi jointly announced each country’s ambitious but achievable post-2020 climate change targets. The historic step to announce our targets early and together demonstrated that the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers, and carbon emitters are reaching across traditional divides and working together to demonstrate leadership on an issue that affects the entire world, as well as energizing the U.N. climate negotiations and encouraging other countries to also put forward ambitious post-2020 climate targets.
Expanding Clean Energy Use and Cutting Energy Waste
To facilitate the transition to a global clean energy economy, the Energy Department is leading the Clean Energy Ministerial, a high-level global forum that promotes policies and programs aimed at improving access to energy efficiency and clean energy supply. We are leading efforts in multilateral fora, such as the G-20, APEC, and Summit of the Americas, to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, increase the use of renewables, and improve the efficiency of heavy-duty vehicles.
Cutting Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
Building on the breakthrough June 2013 agreement on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by President Obama and China’s President Xi, G-20 leaders have expressed support for using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs. We have continued successful bilateral and multilateral engagement on this issue with China, India, and Saudi Arabia, among others. The U.S. also continues to spearhead the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which has expanded to over 100 partners, including 46 countries. The Coalition is implementing 10 initiatives to reduce emissions of methane, HFCs, and black carbon.
Supporting Forests
In November 2013, the U.S., Norway, and the U.K. launched a public-private partnership to support forests in developing countries, with the goal of reducing emissions from deforestation and promoting sustainable agriculture. The initiative has identified its first four priority countries and begun initial work supported by a current capitalization of over $325 million.
Promoting Free Trade in Environmental Goods
In July 2014, the U.S. and 13 other WTO members, representing 86% of global trade in environmental goods, launched negotiations on the Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) to achieve global free trade in clean technologies.
Multilateral Engagement
The United States continues to play an active role in shaping the design of a new global climate agreement due in 2015, including through our chairmanship of the major economies forum on energy and climate.
Mobilizing Climate Finance and Promoting Global Climate Resilience
In November 2014, President Obama announced the United States’ intention to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to reduce carbon pollution and strengthen resilience in developing countries. The U.S. contribution builds on a bipartisan history of U.S. leadership to support climate action and will leverage public and private finance to avoid some of the most catastrophic risks of climate change. The strong U.S. pledge helped increase the number and ambition of other countries’ contributions and our leadership helped propel initial capitalization of the fund to over $10 billion, a threshold seen by stakeholders as demonstrating serious donor commitment.
 

Tilikum, the whale made famous in the film Blackfish, has died at SeaWorld

12000 pound Tilikum, no tank is big enough.
12000 pound Tilikum.

His iconic life represented all that was wrong about keeping these majestic whales in tanks. Rest in peace, Tilikum.
 SeaWorld’s media release:

The Life and Care Of Tilikum At SeaWorld

The SeaWorld family is deeply saddened to announce that one of its most well-known orcas, Tilikum, has passed away. Tilikum passed away early this morning, January 6, surrounded by the trainers, care staff and veterinarians that provided him around-the-clock world-class care.
Like all older animals, Tilikum had faced some very serious health issues. While the official cause of death will not be determined until the necropsy is completed, the SeaWorld veterinarians were treating a persistent and complicated bacterial lung infection. The suspected bacteria is part of a group of bacteria that is found in water and soil both in wild habitats and zoological settings.
Tilikum’s veterinarians and caretakers delivered various treatment regimens over the course of this illness, which consisted of, among other things, combinations of anti-inflammatories, anti-bacterials, anti-nausea medications, hydration therapy and aerosolized antimicrobial therapy.
While today is a difficult day for the SeaWorld family, it’s important to remember that Tilikum lived a long and enriching life while at SeaWorld and inspired millions of people to care about this amazing species.
Tilikum’s life will always be inextricably connected with the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Dawn Brancheau.  While we all experienced profound sadness about that loss, we continued to offer Tilikum the best care possible, each and every day, from the country’s leading experts in marine mammals.
“Tilikum had, and will continue to have, a special place in the hearts of the SeaWorld family, as well as the millions of people all over the world that he inspired,” said President & CEO of SeaWorld Joel Manby. “My heart goes out to our team who cared for him like family.”
Tilikum became a part of SeaWorld’s family 25 years ago. Estimated to be about 36 years old, Tilikum was near the high end of the average life expectancy for male killer whales according to an independent scientific review.
Tilikum was not born at or collected by SeaWorld. He came to us from Sealand of the Pacific in Canada. SeaWorld has not collected a whale from the wild in nearly 40 years, and this past March we announced the end of the orca breeding program effectively making the whales currently at SeaWorld the last generation of orcas under human care.

SeaWorld is investing heavily in stranded marine mammal rescue

SeaWorld plans to build state of the art marine mammal rescue facilities at their San Antonio park as well as at their new killer whale-free park in Abu Dhabi.
They are pumping millions of desperately needed dollars into rescue and “return” (they don’t call it rescue and release anymore, possibly because “return” is specific while “release” leaves the door open to release captive animals in general). Dolphins and whales seem to be stranding in increasing numbers as human-caused noise and pollution pair with climate change to disrupt much of the ocean environment.

Money is tight for most stranding organizations, and governments are limited in what they can and will do so if SeaWorld helps the animals and doesn’t just cherry-pick unreleasable dolphins and small whales for exhibits, they have the potential to make a huge difference.
We’ll see, but I’m optimistic.

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“Over a three year period, SeaWorld San Antonio is committing over $1 million in additional funding and resources, including having SeaWorld animal care professionals and veterinarians dedicated to work with [Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network] TMMSN. Plus, the park is committed to building a new state-of-the-art facility at SeaWorld San Antonio where they will provide 24-hour care for sick and stranded animals that need long term rehabilitation.”

“TMMSN is one of the nation’s most dedicated animal rescue organizations, relentless in its work to help marine mammals in the wild,” said Chris Bellows, Vice President of Zoological Operations, SeaWorld San Antonio. “I am personally and professionally moved by the many volunteers who tirelessly donate their time and energy.  It is a pleasure to work alongside the TMMSN and offer our professional resources as we join together to help rescue and rehabilitate stranded animals with the shared goal of returning them to the wild.”

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“And the stakes are high. This announcement comes at a critical time, as January marks the beginning of the annual stranding season which is triggered by winter weather, changing water temperatures and the calving season. The TMMSN typically can see up to 150 stranded or injured marine mammals each year along the Texas coast, with the most common being the bottlenose dolphin.”

“State Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) commended the partnership between SeaWorld and TMMSN as an example of the private and non-profit sector working hand-in-hand for the betterment of Texas wildlife.  “Protecting our marine mammals and the beautiful natural habitat of the gulf coast is important to the quality of life for all Texans,” said Taylor.  “I commend TMMSN for its commitment to assist and rehabilitate injured animals.  With the resources that SeaWorld provides, we are helping to ensure that our marine mammal populations will continue to thrive for generations to come.”

For more information about Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network visit:  www.DolphinRescue.org

Pets for Vets – rescued pets and military veterans heal together

About the Program:
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 The Pets for Vets program is dedicated to supporting veterans and providing a second chance for shelter pets by rescuing, training and pairing them with America’s veterans who could benefit from a companion animal.

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The Pets… 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year. These animals can make excellent companion animals but never have that chance. Our dedicated animal trainers will evaluate and rescue the shelter animals and provide additional training to ensure that they are able to assimilate into a home, which is quite different from a shelter environment.
The Vets… Sadly, there are alarming statistics of suicide, family abuse and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder facing veterans returning to civilian life after military duty. This can cause a downward spiral of apathy, unemployment, broken relationships, addiction and depression. It is our belief that companion animals can be the life saving therapy or friend that many returning service men and women need.
Medical studies have shown that companion animals significantly improve mental and physical health, including reducing stress, depression and anxiety, symptoms experienced by many serving in the military.
How does it work?
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The Pets for Vets team interviews each veteran to ascertain what he or she is looking for in a companion animal; we pair this with his or her personality and lifestyle to make the perfect veteran-pet match. Once the perfect pet is selected for the veteran, the pet spends time in the home of one of our trainers who teaches the pet basic obedience and other valuable behaviors needed to live with his/her new owner. This can include becoming comfortable with wheel chairs or behaviors needed to help with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Who is Eligible?

Veterans in our chapter areas who could benefit from having a companion animal and who are also able to care for an animal are eligible to receive a Pets for Vets companion animal.
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Endangered local orca, Nigel, was killed by a satellite tag

Nigel (L 95). Photo by Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research.
Nigel (L 95). Photo by Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research.

Read it an weep – a male orca in his prime was killed by an infection from an embedded tag in his dorsal fin. From this document (please see the end for more information on the tagging program):

National Marine Fisheries Service, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada and the Animal Health Center, British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Canada investigated the recent stranding of a resident killer whale.
This adult male killer whale was identified as L95, a 20 year old whale. The animal had been tagged by National Marine Fisheries Service using a satellite-linked limpet-style tag approximately 5 weeks prior to death.
After a thorough necropsy and investigation including an expert review of findings there was sufficient evidence to implicate the tag attachment site as a source of fungal infection to the whale.
This fungal infection contributed to illness in the whale and played a contributory role in its death. Seven other killer whales have been tagged previously with similar tags which have not resulted in death in those whales.
There were several factors in this case that predisposed this whale to a fungal infection* at the tagging site and NMFS is reviewing the findings from this case and developing mitigation factors to limit the impacts of future tags and tagging on southern resident killer whales.
*There were several factors in this case that may have predisposed this whale to a fungal infection at the tagging site including incomplete disinfection of the tag after seawater contamination,retention of the tag petals which may have allowed for formation of a biofilm or direct pathogen implantation, placement of the tag lower on the body and near large bore vessels which increased the chance of fungal dissemination through the blood system, poor body condition, and possible immunosuppression. 

This controversial tagging program has been opposed by biologists, naturalists, and animal advocates:
The Reality of Dart Tagging the Southern Resident Killer Whales – it is Invasive and Disruptive”
Southern Resident Orca “Scoter” Hit by Invasive Satellite Tag by NOAA – To What End?

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