Save bottlenose dolphins December 22, 2006 8:09 PM
SAVE BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS
by Deborah Mitchell — Senior Editor, Environmental Protection
Bottlenose dolphins and 37 other species of these highly intelligent mammals face potential extinction. Many dolphins — including pink dolphins, black dolphins, Amazon River dolphins, and Yangtze River dolphins — are critically or seriously endangered. For instance, only 17 Yangtze River dolphins are known to exist.
Every year, humans kill tens of thousands of bottlenose dolphins or damage their habitats. Any detrimental impact to their environment can greatly jeopardize their survival.
Perhaps the greatest threat to bottlenose dolphins is contamination of their habitat: oceans, seas, and rivers. Pesticides, heavy metals, plastics, and other industrial and agricultural pollutants that do not break down in the environment or that remain in the waterways for decades are dramatically reducing dolphin populations, as all dolphins build up unusually high levels of contaminants. In addition, river and marine dolphins frequently die when they collide with boats, while many dolphins also succumb after swallowing debris, including nets, balls, and plastics.
A fishing technique called purse-seining, in which huge nylon nets up to one mile long are used to catch yellowfin tuna, causes the death of about 20,000 dolphins per year, as the dolphins and tuna often swim together and the dolphins are crushed or drown when the nets are brought in.
The use of driftnets (banned in 1993 but still used illegally) and gill nets (still legal) kills more bottlenose dolphins each year than any other fishing method. Dolphins are also hunted for food, oil, and other uses. In Chile, for example, the endangered black dolphin is hunted to provide bait for king crab, and Turkish fishermen kill dolphins for oil and chicken feed. Japan is believed to be the largest consumer of dolphin meat.
The gentle nature of bottlenose dolphins and other species makes working with them and preserving their habitats an especially rewarding experience. Several conservation groups are ready to help you share that experience.
The widespread distribution of bottlenose and other dolphin species, combined with the energy of dedicated researchers and volunteers around the world who are concerned about their survival, means there are many opportunities to make a difference for dolphins and their ecosystems.
Here are some of them:
At Abaco Island in the Bahamas, you can track and monitor bottlenose dolphins and other dolphin species to help develop a conservation plan. This volunteer vacation lasts 11 days.
The bottlenose dolphins of Greece are the main focus of this nine-day opportunity, which involves monitoring the dolphins and gathering data on their ecosystem.
Stay on board a sailboat while monitoring and recording the behavior and ecology of common dolphins and other species off the coast of Spain. This twelve-day adventure may include filming the underwater activities of the dolphins.
Interact with bottlenose dolphins and dusky dolphins, and other species and help develop conservation plans for the populations living off the coast of New Zealand. This thirteen-day opportunity includes a stay in a modern oceanside home.
Swim with the dolphins in Belize, where you will study dolphin behavior and ecology. This Oceanic Society Bottlenose Dolphin Project lasts eight days.
Volunteer to help save the Pink River Dolphins in Brazil. This is a year-round project, so you can join the researchers at any time. Duties include observation, data collection, and data entry. The minimum stay is two weeks.
Swim with the dolphins and aid researchers in recording dolphin behavior as a part of Project Dolphin in the Bahamas. You must know how to swim and snorkel to participate in this Oceanic Society adventure.
Experts say dolphins have a level of intelligence comparable with humans, and all species appear to be especially skillful at cooperating with each other when looking for food or caring for their young. You can be part of a human team that cooperates to ensure the future of these remarkable creatures.
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