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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Japan Threatened to Boycott Australia if Koala Bears were shot (Frommer's Australia)

Japan saved large numbers of  Koala Bears from being shot.   It was Japan's threat of a boycott which made Australia think twice.  Below is an article on the status of  protection given to Koalas by the Australian government.

JUNE 2000
Presented at the Australian Veterinary Association Conference in Perth
Koalas in South Gippsland may hold the key to the future survival of koalas in southern Australia but their habitat is afforded little or no protection under Victorian or Federal law. It is also subject to logging. Most if not all other koala populations in Victoria and South Australia (collectively I will refer to them as 'southern koala populations') have been established as part of an ongoing translocation program. They are highly inbred and beginning to show morphological changes. This is why the management of all koala populations in southern Australia and particularly the decisions made with regard to isolated & island populations have to be carefully handled.
It is the AKF's view that Koalas in South Gippsland, Victoria may well hold the key to the future survival of koalas in southern Australia as a result of the historical twists and turns that have taken place over the past two centuries. The South Gippsland koala population centred around the Strzelecki Ranges is believed to be the only surviving remnant of the original koala population that ranged throughout Victoria and South Australia prior to white settlement. Koalas in South Gippsland are the most genetically diverse of southern koala populations and as such are crucial in terms of long term conservation. It is important to protect the koalas of South Gippsland and their habitats, for the benefit of all southern koala populations.
Most other southern koala populations outside South Gippsland are founded from French Island stock and are highly inbred. These koalas are beginning to show morphological abnormalities such as one or no testicles, and because of their very narrow genetic base, could well be vulnerable to a population crash in the future. It is imperative that this fact is recognised by everyone involved in the management of southern koalas so they will then protect the koalas of South Gippsland and their habitats. Their genetic material could be used to strengthen other southern populations and afford all those koalas a good chance of long term survival.
The Australian Koala Foundation believes that until there is an accurate census of existing animals and a clear idea of what habitat is available on private and public land across the whole state, it should not be assumed that Victoria has viable koala populations. The same applies to South Australia. The AKF has commenced work on mapping the Strzelecki ranges in South Gippsland for its Koala Habitat Atlas, which produces GIS based maps which identify and rank koala habitat so that sound land-use planning decisions can be made for the protection of koala habitats and the management of remaining populations.
Habitat is a key factor in the debate of how to manage koalas. While we quibble over population estimates, the spotlight is turned away from ongoing habitat destruction, fragmentation and isolation. The loss of habitat caused by human intervention in this country is the root cause of so called 'overpopulation' by koalas, bats, cockatoos and other threatened wildlife. Calls to cull these natives to our country who are being forced into ever decreasing habitats while we continue to clear at one of the highest rates in the world, are irresponsible and completely crazy.
To understand the problems faced by today's koalas, it is necessary to appreciate the recent history of koalas in Australia. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s there was a thriving world trade in koala fur and by 1930, koalas were already extinct in South Australia, estimated at only thousands in New South Wales, thousands in Victoria and approximately 10,000 in Queensland. Approximately three million koala furs went to market during the early 1900s and as many as ten million were estimated to have been shot during that time. A six month open season on koalas in Queensland in 1919 alone yielded one million koala skins.
In 1930, American President Herbert Hoover banned the importation of koalas skins into the US and following public outrage in Australia, koalas were eventually protected in all states by the end of the 1930s, but their habitat was not protected and in most cases, it still isn't.
Because of the fur trade, people around Australia became concerned for the koala's survival and a 'handful' of koalas were moved from mainland Victoria to French Island and Phillip Island in the 1880/90s. The records of this period are poor but oral history suggests that a sealer presented his lover on French Island with a gift of a small group of koalas (thought to be as few as four). Koalas were also moved from the mainland to Phillip Island at around this time. In 1923, wildlife authorities in Victoria commenced translocating animals back to mainland habitats. Between 1923 - 1994 approximately 10,000 koalas were translocated from French Island, Phillip Island and other populations founded by their stock to mainland Victoria, Kangaroo Island and mainland South Australia.
While this translocation process has restocked mainland Victoria and South Australia where koalas had lived before the fur trade, the progeny of French Island koalas founded by as few as four animals makes up the bulk of koalas that have repopulated mainland Victoria and South Australia. They are highly inbred and as I said earlier, some are beginning to show morphological changes. Wild Koalas on Phillip Island are all but locally extinct due to the pressures of habitat loss, cars and dogs.
The Victorian Government boasts that its translocation program is the most successful in the world. Successful in terms of what? The AKF argues that its so-called success lies in the fact that it has moved large numbers of koalas. But there is no research to suggest that koalas are secure in the southern part of their range as a result.
French Island koalas continue to be a source population for translocation. Problems at Tower Hill, Mt. Eccles, Framlingham and Snake Island are an example of the real failure of translocations from French Island. One can only speculate on the exponential growth of problems caused by the further translocation of animals from Mt. Eccles, Framlingham and Snake Island to other parts of Victoria where they are currently being dumped. Those that survive anyway, given the information received by us after a recent translocation from Snake Island.
Fundamentally important to the future southern koala populations is the retention or re-establishment of suitable habitats. Well over 80% of Victoria and South Australia's original vegetation has been cleared. What remains is degraded farmland, small isolated patches of forest and an increasingly modified forest system where native forest is being logged and often replaced by pine plantations and monoculture eucalypt plantations.
This history and much more is part and parcel of the problems that managers, scientists, politicians and veterinarians now face in the management of Southern Koalas.
In the Australian Koala Foundation's opinion, the long-term management of wild koalas and their habitats, particularly in Victoria and South Australia, has been driven by bigger political motives that have stemmed from commercial exploitation of the animal itself and its habitat. For far too long, the koala has been blamed for the problems being seen in isolated remnants of forest and bushland. We acknowledge that Government agencies are attempting to find solutions for broader problems of land use that began at white settlement but we state emphatically that the koala is not the culprit. Poor land use practices and a dominant culture which "undervalues" wildlife are the root causes of problems of koala management.
The Australian Koala Foundation has been accused by some of not fully appreciating the extent of the over-population issues in Victoria and South Australia and I would like to challenge that notion.
I quote from a paper given by the University of New South Wales' Dr. Bronwyn Houlden at the 1999 AKF Status of the Koala Conference held on Phillip Island;
"The translocation programs operating in southeastern Australia have established a rare series of wild koala populations that have undergone sequential founding events. Genetic analysis has shown a cumulative increase in inbreeding, and a loss of genetic variation in these populations."
Houlden goes on to say "Inbreeding results in a loss of fertility, reproductive success and survivorship (known as inbreeding depression) in many plants and animals. Inbreeding could ultimately pose a serious threat to the long-term survival of the koala. Preliminary studies have shown that morphological abnormalities including unilateral and bilateral testicular abnormalities and other defects are prevalent in populations in southeastern Australia (up to 30% in some populations). These physical abnormalities may be a consequence of inbreeding in koalas."
"We have assessed the consequences of inbreeding in koalas by quantifying reproductive parameters in populations with a range of bottleneck histories, levels of genetic variation and inbreeding coefficients, to determine whether these variables are correlated."
"Koalas are at an ideal point for intervention, as many of these issues could be addressed by management strategies, including the introduction of unrelated stock (or semen) into island populations." (Houlden et al, 1999)
The AKF fully appreciates the problems facing southern koala populations. We also understand the complexities of the solutions that will be required to fix those problems. However, to date we have not seen any management in either Victoria or South Australia that is going to solve the problems. We are also confident that the problems are going to get worse.
The AKF understands why the Taskforce made that decision, arguing that koalas were not native to the Island and therefore should be removed. 'Is it better to starve to death than to be shot?' questioned certain scientists in the media.
The AKF opposed the cull from the beginning. We opposed the cull because it is wrong from a moral point of view.
I understand the argument that Kangaroo Island should be free of Koalas because they were never there in the first place, but I and the AKF are realists and we knew that the politicians would never want all the koalas off the islands. They want them there to generate tourism dollars.
And what about Victoria? There is a media frenzy whenever there are calls for a cull.
It is wrong and it would instantly give land clearers all over the country the perfect excuse to sacrifice koala habitat to the bulldozers.
We all know the Politicians in South Australia decided against a cull, knowing that it would provoke world-wide outcry and a bad image for tourism. And that they opted for the expensive translocation and sterilisation process. By default the Victorians have followed suit.
The Media and the public are assured that the Governments are committed to doing the best by the koalas, with good science and good veterinary practices in hand. We constantly hear rhetoric about translocation and sterilisation being in the best interests of the bush that is damaged and in the best interests of the koalas themselves. However neither end result has been achieved. An ill conceived process that disregards social structure, habitat viability and dignity of the animals is doomed from the beginning.
It is imperative that Government takes full responsibility for koalas and treats them with the respect and dignity they deserve, especially given that they want to exploit them. It is even more important for the scientific and veterinary communities to have this understanding and respect and give the koalas genuine assistance.
Before the fertility trials began on Kangaroo Island and several times during my time at AKF we have tried to make scientists and wildlife managers in Victoria and South Australia aware of research conducted at Koala Beach in northern NSW on the social hierarchy of koalas. More importantly we have tried to explain to wildlife managers that an appreciation of social order is extremely important for management decisions especially with regard to the animals that exist in isolated habitats.
To date, that has fallen on deaf ears. Translocations are based on a "closest to the ground" mentality with little or no regard for social order, rather than a "which is the best animal to take" approach. They are also undertaken in a gung-ho fashion reminiscent of the wild west. We cringe when we see the techniques used to capture and transfer animals, often with untrained volunteers. In a moment, I will illustrate the cruelty inflicted on koalas as part of these translocations undertaken with total disregard for the animals' welfare and that of their families.
The AKF is disgusted by the fact that the koala has been caste as the villain in the over population debate. No-one can go into any isolated habitat and not see the damage that sheep, cattle and humans have wreaked over the years. How can the koala be blamed for all this degradation and how can we, as Australian citizens allow the international public to believe this.
Do you really think it is fair to blame the koala for all the land use problems on Kangaroo Island? Or on French Island where people burnt 8 tonnes of wood per day to feed a chicory industry and a salt industry during the early 1900s? Or indeed on the mainland where over 80% of the koala's original habitat has been destroyed?
Is it fair to blame the koala for years and years of poor land management and then if we do, is it fair to shoot them out of the trees while they sit there defenseless and unable to speak for themselves?
Did anyone on the South Australian Taskforce really believe that the Politicians and the public would allow a cull and if not, why did they engage in a culling debate in the first place?
I never believed that the Government would condone the cull. The committee involved were either pawns of the Government or incredibly naïve in believing that they would. I also found it extremely frustrating to be told by members of that committee that they had the koalas' welfare at heart and that the AKF was unreasonable because we would not allow them to be shot. "What fresh hell is this?", I thought to myself.
So then they opted for the translocation and sterilisation process - the soft cull as it were. Ironically in my opinion, those who advocated shooting the Koalas (sometimes vets) watched as these animals died slowly and painfully after botched veterinary procedures and translocation practices that showed little or no respect for this wonderful species.
We have evidence that animals have suffered from translocation and fertility control in Victoria and South Australia. Veterinarians among others have been involved in what I can only describe as cruelty.
We know that veterinarians with little or no bush experience have performed some of this surgery. We also know that Veterinarians working with zoos and other institutions have stood by helplessly watching as surgery is performed on these animals. They cannot speak out publicly for a range of reasons. The AKF is under no such censorship.
We have tag numbers and detailed descriptions that the public have given us, of large numbers of koalas who suffered greatly. I want it known that the AKF will continue to oppose this practice as long as it continues because of the appalling and cruel things that are being perpetrated on koalas in Victoria and South Australia.
I will quote from one woman who wrote to the Foundation;
"On the 6th November, I received into my shelter a male koala, approximately 12 months old, vasectomised, without an ear tag, weight being 1.5 kg - found at ....(a) camping ground. His condition was extremely poor, obviously starved, dehydrated (sunken eyes and no elasticity in skin) and showing signs of pneumonia. He died 7 November. The Autopsy revealed pneumonia and emphysema.
Since then I have admitted to this shelter three koalas - tag number 243 - vasectomised male, dehydrated and thin - Ear tag number 143...comatose, dehydrated, thin. Tag 206 - female, dehydrated and thin, arrived comatose, consequently all have died. Tags 137 and 84 both taken from dead koalas are in my possession - both of these koalas were debilitated, thin, dehydrated, starving/malnourished....One that survived for ten days went trough a toxic stage. Interesting to note that none of the stitches where they had been sterilized had dissolved. I now have tags 241, 218, 245, 256, 117 - all these animals are now dead. Koala 141 is still in the camping ground but unhealthy."
Will the politicians in Victoria and South Australia admit to these animals being poorly treated? Will the Vets who performed the operations admit the animals have suffered and died at their hands?
If the problem is to be solved, then management solutions will have to be found that not only take into account animal welfare, good science and habitat quality, but that also deal effectively with political mandates.
And, the AKF hopes that in the future the koalas in Victoria and those who manage them will be seen as an asset to our biodiversity and our tourism industry -- not as pests to be eradicated.
Now that the United States Government has listed the Koala as threatened under their Endangered Species Act, I am hoping that our Governments will take heed. When I meet with biologists in the US, they assure me that overpopulation by inbred animals in isolated habitats spells trouble and is not an indication that 'all is well', as some in Australia would have us believe. In fact they warn us to take heed of the comments in the Federal Register with regard to the listing so that we do not remain complacent as a country in our management practices. Sadly, they have seen it all before in many countries around the world.
I know that in history's pages the AKF's stance on 'no culling' will be seen as correct. Culling is wrong and would set a precedent in this country that our koalas cannot afford. Can't you just hear a Queensland farmer saying "let's shoot these bloody koalas", because he wants to clear for further cattle grazing.
That is what is happening to the fruit bats down the eastern seaboard of Australia. The recent bat cull in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Melbourne is the end result of such thinking and I am appalled by it. So should every decent biologist and citizen in this country. When I hear a biologist call for a cull, I start to question his or her credibility and love of animals.
Aren't you tired of all this? I am and I want to find common ground where we can all agree on what needs to be done. Our Politicians do not know what to do, most of the managers on the ground don't know what to do and I know that many agree with AKF thinking. It is time for groups like the Australian Veterinary Association to lead the way and find solutions that will work.
It is time to take a real-world view and that real-world view is that no politician is going to remove koalas from Kangaroo Island or any other Island because they make money via tourism. They make huge amounts of money.
At present at least 500,000 tourists visit Kangaroo Island each year, in part to experience nature, and part of that is the koala.
The AKF's real world view is that if our Government is going to exploit the koala in one way or another, then it must give them the dignity and respect they deserve in return and manage them compassionately with a long term strategy, not just knee-jerk reactions.
With the money made from tourism, I expect them to manage the koalas properly. The AKF believes it can be done and I know it can be done with dignity, respect and consideration of the Koala.
When scientists and others try to lead the media and the public to believe that it is in the koalas' best interests to be shot, I cannot tell you how frustrated that makes me feel. It sanitizes the thought of killing and implies that somehow there is no other option. That is nonsense. There are plenty of other options and it is time for us to discuss them.

A Better Way to See Orcas


Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Horse Cee Cee Given A 50% Chance of Survival

One of the many evenings i go over to the farm to spend time with my horse

She knows when you're happy
She knows when you're comfortable
She knows when you're confident
And she always knows when you have carrots.
~Author Unknown

A couple months ago, someone was bringing my horse, Cee Cee, in from pasture and did not see an old drainage pipe a few feet from the barn which had rusted through.  My horse stepped into it with her back foot and the sharp metal almost tore her foot off.  Called the Vet who came and said that the injury was beyond his expertise. He called Guelph Veterinary Hospital for us to take her there to give her the best chance for survival; but he said that he was not hopeful.  She had four Veterinarians working carefully on her for help get her stabilized and her wounds irrigated and bandaged.   Her little heart was beating so fast from trauma and pain. She would not let me out of her sight.
 Because of her age...20years, and the cost of treatment....and no guarantee of her surviving after the hundreds of dollars spent....the clinic suggested that perhaps i should consider euthanasia. For me that was not an option...looking in to her eyes i knew she was a fighter and still has so many years ahead of her (her mother lived a long life-of 33yrs...well past the expected life span for a thoroughbred) and also she has the physique and energy of a much younger horse.
Cee Cee is a big part of the "Gervais family" the age of thirteen i camped out at the farm until her mother Lenad went in to Labor (that is also when i started to drink coffee- which to this day I am still addicted). After i helped to deliver her, she followed me around like i was her mother. And I use to ride her mother in the field with little CeeCee following in a way, she has always had two mothers:)

I took Cee Cee home from the Guelph Vet hospital a couple days later...with a letter from them stating that she had a 50% chance of survival; because of the high risk of life threatening infection. Changed her bandages carefully twice a day...and infection could set in if the smallest spec of dust was to get on her lacerations. Both legs were completely lacerated with her tendon sheath being severed...and changing the bandages was always a very stressful ordeal. Especially when she kicked out in pain from the slightest touch!

But it has been a couple months now...and we have beaten the 50% odds!  The bandages have finally come off  both legs....and soon she will be grazing in the field like the good old days! 

I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to save my horse...she is so special to me! And it gratifies me to see her lumunescent eyes happy again.  From all the hopelessness...tears and horror i have experienced in Taiji, i know how fragile and precious life is.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

イルカ漁映画『ザ・コーヴ』が日本で公開 (BBC)

Real situation of Fukushima now that Japanese medias hiding behind

Fukushima children forced to drink radioactive milk at school

Chimpanzees' champion Jane Goodall finds reasons for optimism on Island

The enthusiasm and commitment of young people gives primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall hope for the future, despite the displays of greed, cruelty and destruction that she witnesses.

Goodall, who conducted groundbreaking research into chimpanzee behaviour, now travels the world talking about the need for protection, not just for chimpanzees, but for the world.
"We are surrounded by doom and gloom, and I believe the time will come when Mother Nature will say 'enough is enough,' but I don't think we have got there yet," said Goodall, who will give a public talk Saturday at Alix Goolden Performance Hall.

The talk, presented by the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada and Royal Roads University, is titled "Reason for Hope: Exploring the Challenges of Science and Soul," and Goodall wants the audience to leave believing they can change the world.
"In our own lives, we can think about the choices we make and the consequences. Think about what we buy, where was it made, did it harm the environment, was it child slave labour and did it cause massive cruelty to animals," she said. "It may seem small, but when millions of people make those decisions it leads to change."
That is where the next generation is pivotal, said Goodall, 77, who is pinning her hope for the future on her Roots and Shoots program for young people, which started in 2009 and now has branches in 130 countries.
Each group works on three projects, to help animals, people and the environment.
"These young people are doing amazing things," said Goodall, who, during her visit to Canada, hopes to help spread word of the program to aboriginal groups.
A colleague will meet with two southern Vancouver Island bands and Goodall hopes she will also be able to meet First Nations young people on Vancouver Island.
Goodall, through her film Jane's Journey, has already put a spotlight on problems on North American reserves, from poverty to addiction and suicide.
"I know Roots and Shoots changes lives," she said.
Goodall lives in England, but spends at least 300 days a year travelling and giving talks. She believes many of the world's problems stem from people abandoning the aboriginal belief that decisions should take into account the effect on future generations.
"We say how will it affect me now or affect the next shareholders meeting," she said.
"Given we have lost that wisdom, there seems to be a disconnect between head and heart and we have to mend that.
"Humans have always been at their best at coming up with solutions when their backs are against the wall and I think, right now, we are beginning to feel our backs are against the wall."
For Goodall, the overriding reason for hope for the future is the resilience of Mother Nature.
Ecosystems that have been almost destroyed can bounce back and support wildlife and animals can be rescued from the brink of extinction, said Goodall, whose book Hope for Animals and Their World documents, among other species, the recovery of the Vancouver Island marmot population.
"It was nearly gone. Just think of the marmot," she said.
Tickets for Goodall's talk are available from the Royal and McPherson Theatres Society, 250-386-6121.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sharks attack people Dolphins Defend

"Winter - A Dolphin's Tale"

How Far Will Dolphins Go to Relate to Humans?

Erik Olsen/The New York Times
The Wild Dolphin Project: For 25 years, Denise Herzing has returned to the same place in the Bahamas to study a group of wild dolphins. Next year, she will pioneer a project to communicate with them.
OFF THE BAHAMAS — In a remote patch of turquoise sea, Denise L. Herzing splashes into the water with a pod of 15 Atlantic spotted dolphins. For the next 45 minutes, she engages the curious creatures in a game of keep-away, using a piece of Sargassum seaweed like a dog’s chew toy.
Dr. Herzing is no tourist cavorting with marine mammals. As the world’s leading authority on the species, she has been studying the dolphins for 25 years as part of the Wild Dolphin Project, the longest-running underwater study of its kind.
“I’m kind of an old-school naturalist,” she said. “I really believe in immersing yourself in the environment of the animal.”
Immerse herself she has. Based in Jupiter, Fla., she has tracked three generations of dolphins in this area. She knows every animal by name, along with individual personalities and life histories. She has captured much of their lives on video, which she is using to build a growing database.
And next year Dr. Herzing plans to begin a new phase of her research, something she says has been a lifetime goal: real-time two-way communication, in which dolphins take the initiative to interact with humans.
Up to now, dolphins have shown themselves to be adept at responding to human prompts, with food as a reward for performing a task. “It’s rare that we ask dolphins to seek something from us,” Dr. Herzing said.
But if she is right, the dolphins will seek to communicate with humans, and the reward will be social interaction itself, with dolphins and humans perhaps developing a crude vocabulary for objects and actions.
Other scientists are excited by the project. “ ‘Mind-blowing’ doesn’t do justice to the possibilities out there,” said Adam Pack, a cetacean researcher at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and an occasional collaborator with Dr. Herzing. “You’ve got crystal-clear warm water, no land in sight and an interest by this community of dolphins of engaging with humans.”
How far will dolphins go to engage?
“The key is going to be coming up with a system in which the dolphins want to communicate,” said Stan Kuczaj, director of the Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi. “If they don’t care, it won’t work.”
Dr. Kuczaj developed an early two-way communication system while working at a captive lab in Orlando in the late 1980s. The system relied on visual symbols, not sound, and used a large stationary keyboard that proved to be too cumbersome.
But he says that the effort gave him confidence that such a system could work and that Dr. Herzing is “definitely the closest to getting there.”
“If it works,” he said, “it’ll be a huge step forward.”
Dr. Herzing’s work has been compared to that of Jane Goodall, whose studies of chimpanzees also entailed decades of observational fieldwork.
Born in 1957 in St. Cloud, Minn., Dr. Herzing first encountered dolphins while poring through books as a child, and she realized that the animals would be her life’s work. Her mother died when she was young; her father, a security guard, encouraged her early to explore the natural world.
After graduating from Oregon State, she earned a master’s degree from San Francisco State and a doctorate in behavioral biology and environmental studies from the Union Institute Graduate School, based in Cincinnati.
In 1985, as a researcher with the Oceanic Society, she found this spot in the Bahamas, where the conditions seemed perfect for dolphin observation. That year she started the Wild Dolphin Project, and began using video to document dolphin society.
“In the early days, it was hard to get the animals comfortable with us,” she said. “I often worked in the water by myself. As my eye developed, I was able to say, ‘O.K., here’s a good sequence.’ And I became able to shoot and keep an eye on what else is going on around.”
The project is largely financed by foundations, including the Annenberg Foundation. In 2008, Dr. Herzing was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship.
Back on her research vessel, a 62-foot catamaran called the Stenella (the Atlantic spotted dolphin is Stenella frontalis), Dr. Herzing reviews video from the day and logs moments of foraging, courtship and play into a growing database. With a few keystrokes she (and other researchers) can summon 25 years of video on a specific behavior — say, a mother foraging with a calf, which can lend great insight to how dolphins teach their children to find food.
“It’s incredibly valuable,” said Laela Sayigh, a research specialist in dolphin communication at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
Dolphins are known to make three types of sounds: whistles, clicks and burst pulses. Whistles are thought to be identification sounds, like names, while clicks are used to navigate and to find prey with echolocation.
Burst pulses, which can sound like quarreling cartoon chipmunks, are a muddy mixture of the two, and Dr. Herzing believes that much information may be encoded in these sounds, as well as in dolphins’ ultra-high frequencies, which humans cannot hear.
The two-way system she will test next year is being developed with artificial intelligence scientists at Georgia Tech. It consists of a wearable underwater computer that can make dolphin sounds, but also record and differentiate them in real time. It must also distinguish which dolphin is making the sound, a common challenge since dolphins rarely open their mouths.
In the new system, two human divers interact in front of dolphins: First they play a synthesized whistle sound, then one hands the other a scarf or a piece of seaweed. The idea is to establish an association between sound and object. Dolphins are excellent mimics, and the hope is that they will imitate the whistle to request an object or initiate play.
“I think if they pick up on it,” Dr. Herzing said, “they’re going to be excited and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, now I have the power to get what I want in real time.’ ”
Still, she is quick to play down expectations, noting that the system is still in development.
“We’re not talking to dolphins,” she said, adding, “We’ll keep it simple and then we can potentially expand it.”
And while other researchers praise her work, they point out that of dolphin-human communication has often fallen short of expectations.
“It depends on what you mean by communicate,” Dr. Kuczaj said. “I can communicate with my dog, too. But do I have conversations with my dog? Well, if I do they’re very one-sided.”