From WAMU 88.5 and American University in Washington, it's "The Animal House," connecting you with everything that concerns the animal world. I'm Sam Litzinger. Later we learn about the Great Bear Rainforest and the man dedicated to protecting that Canadian landmark and its wildlife. We'll meet the author of a new book about the fine line between animal conservation and animal consumption, and Dr. Gary Weitzman also joins us later to answer questions about your pets. First...
Another adult, another -- the frequency is really increasing very rapidly, and -- another one, if you extrapolate this number in this short period of -- in this short distance, which is only, you know, a quarter of a mile, and you take that out over a hundred miles or 200 miles, you've got a huge number of dolphins.
That's the sound of scientists in Peru investigating the mysterious deaths of hundreds of dolphins and thousands of birds along a 120-mile stretch of Peruvian coastline. Hardy Jones, an award-winning wildlife filmmaker and executive director of the Marine Life Conservation Organization, Blue Voice, has recently returned from Peru. He's here to tell us what he saw, what he knows about the situation. Hardy, glad to have you with us in "The Animal House."
Thank you very much. I'm pleased to be with you.
So what is going on? Do we know?
Actually, this is a very fortuitous time for you to be talking to me, because I just got a report -- the first report that's pointing to consequences as to why this very large mass mortality event of dolphins has taken place. I know you are also aware that there's been a very large die-off of pelicans, but it appears that the pelican mortality is due to starvation at the change of El Nino -- La Nina to El Nino. However, getting back to the dolphins, what Dr. Carlos Yaipen-Llanos, the Peruvian veterinarian that Blue Voice has been working with has concluded and told me over a very scratchy phone line from Lima, it is some kind of acoustic trauma, but he did not conclude that it was oil related.
He didn't say it wasn't, but he didn't say it was. So we're still waiting for more information as to the exact cause of it, but he did say he found no virus, and he found no Brucella, which were two of the other main culprits.
Now acoustic trauma, what's involved with that and how could it actually kill an animal?
Well, in the water, blast is magnified and propagated and so if there were oil testing going on using seismic detonations, and dolphins were nearby, that could impact the dolphins, destroy their eardrums, and damage internal organs. The same thing, however, could happen from Navy sonar or other naval type of activities. It could even happen from volcanic activity.
How do we find out for sure? What's the next step here?
My next step is to wait for the detailed report from Dr. Yaipen-Llanos, and then it will be put through a series of peer review sessions and various experts around the world are standing by to get his conclusions, and then to render their own judgments as to whether they stand up. But the elimination of disease is Dr. Yaipen-Llanos -- that is his conclusion, that it was not disease. Well, the dolphins that I saw were healthy looking on the outside, but when Dr. Yaipen-Llanos opened them up, bubbles came out, and he said that he believed that that was the result of coming up from depth. Something happened when these dolphins were at depth and then they rocketed to the surface.
It's almost like they got the bends.
Yes. It's the expansion of air going from high pressure to low pressure.
By the way, how many animals are we talking about, any idea?
We ran the beach from San Jose, Peru north 135 kilometers, about 80, 85 miles. We counted 615 dead dolphins in that area, and we ran about 75 percent of the area that's considered to be affected. So you can extrapolate up to at least 900 on the beach, and nobody knows how many may be in the water.
That must have been heartbreaking for you driving along that beach seeing all those dead dolphins.
Yeah. It was very heart-wrenching, I have -- you're quite right. I have an emotional thing for dolphins. I've been filming them in the wild for National Geographic and Discovery Channel and PBS for over 30 years. I've come to know many dolphins personally. I've also worked in Japan to try to stop the slaughter of dolphins over there. I've been doing that for more than 30 years, so I have a very deep feeling for dolphins, and to see them strewn across these beaches, the saddest sight was this baby which looked perfectly healthy. The skin was shining, and it still had its umbilicus, but it was dead and rolling around in the surf.
What about the pelicans? Now, that's a separate problem. I guess initially there was some concern that it might be one cause for both the deaths of the pelicans and the dolphins, but starvation sounds a particularly hideous way to go. Is there anything that can be done about the pelicans as far as you know?
Well, no. There really isn't anything that can be done. This is a natural -- this appears to be a naturally occurring event, although perhaps magnified by global warming. The El Nino/La Nina cycle has been getting more frequent and more intense since the early 1980s, and these massive die-offs of birds are not uncommon when the swing goes from, in this case, from a La Nina to an El Nino, because the water temperature is changed very rapidly, and the anchovy on which the birds feeds, they just move off. Fish are -- the location of fish are more than anything determined by temperature, so there's not much a human intervention could do.
Let me give you some good news though that Dr. Yaipen-Llanos reported to me on the telephone. He said he was summoned to the Peruvian Congress, that the Congress there in Lima is very concerned with what's going on, that they're passing new laws and beefing up older laws to protect dolphins in various ways, and one of the things that is worth mentioning is that in Peru, they eat dolphin, and it has become more and more common for fisherman to ensnare dolphins in their nets and then eat them.
Now they're even eating the dolphins that have died due to this unusual mortality event, and so the Peruvian Congress appears to be ready to step up and try to prevent the deliberate kill from taking place.
It's an ongoing story, and we'll be following it. We've been speaking with Hardy Jones, an award-winning wildlife filmmaker and executive director of the Marine Life Conservation Organization, Blue Voice. He recently visited Peru to investigate the sudden and mysterious mass die offs of dolphins and birds there. Thank you very much for being with us in "The Animal House."
I'm glad to be with you. Thank you.
For "The Animal House," I'm Mary McCann, and this is Bird Note. Motherhood, in the avian world, it's a mixed bag. Peregrine Falcon mothers share duties fairly equally with Peregrine dads. Both incubate the eggs, although mom usually spends more time at the task. For the first three weeks after the eggs hatch, she alone broods the young, and the male hunts to feed the entire family. When the young fledge, both parents feed them, and at the same time, teach the young birds to hunt for themselves.
At the other end of the spectrum is the female hummingbird. She usually carries the entire burden of nesting, incubating, and tending the young, a true single mom. The male stays around, but only to protect his territory. He's mostly a pest. And then there's the female Western Sandpiper. She finishes the nest the male has started and they share incubation duties, but mother Sandpiper usually leaves the family just a few days after the eggs have hatched.
The male tends the young until they're able to fly. It makes sense. The female needs to replenish herself. The eggs she laid almost equaled her body weight. Learn more at birdnote.org.
In a few moments, Dr. Gary Weitzman will join us with answers to your questions about pets. First, let's learn more about our Animal of the Day, the bear, which has an evolutionary history that goes back at least 20 million years. Do you know how many species of the mammal are living today? We'll have the answer just before the end of today's program. Next week in "The Animal House," the power of pet therapy.
We had a rider who was nonverbal and one day he just decided to pull back on the reins and say whoa, and his parents were just over the moon. This was the first time in two years he had experienced language the way that we know it.
Horses with an extraordinary ability to heal their human companions, next week in "The Animal House."
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