Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dolphin Intelligence viz Human Intelligence

by Hardy Jones

It has long been my belief that there should not only be a ban on directly killing dolphins but regulations which protect their habitat, food supplies and water quality.

I’ve spent more than thirty years among dolphins in the wild. Much of it has been spent with spotted dolphins in the Bahamas. But I’ve also interacted in a personal way over varying periods of time with spinner dolphins in Hawaii, killer whales in Norway, sperm whales in the Galapagos and off Dominica and bottlenose dolphins at Rangiroa Atoll.

Their curiosity and inventiveness in creating and maintaining a relationship with a non-cetacean intelligence such as myself has convinced me there is something extraordinary going on in their massive brains. My conviction is only enhanced by observations of them interacting among themselves.

I don’t need scientific proof that cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are intelligent but I welcome it as a way of convincing the vast part of humanity who’ve had no contact with these creatures that they are a special case; that they merit special protection under law.

Drs. Lori Marino and Diana Reiss used mirror self-recognition to prove that dolphins are self-aware. The story of this remarkable work received substantial media play when it was published. In January of this year articles began to pop up around the world reporting a call from Dr. Marino that dolphins be treated as “non-human persons.”

The articles cited studies that have shown dolphin communication is similar to that of humans and that dolphins have brains have many of the features and functions of human brains.

In a statement that really pecks at the cosmic egg Dr. Marino, Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University in Atlanta, said dolphins neuroanatomy “suggests psychological continuity between humans and dolphins and has profound implications for the ethics of human-dolphin interactions.”

After reading of Dr. Marino’s statement I traveled to Atlanta to interview her. In a Starbuck’s just off campus we had a fascinating discussion of the difficult subject of comparative intelligence.

I pressed her on a question that I’ve long had about why dolphins, who in many cases have larger brains than humans, are “marked down” because of something called the brain-body weight ratio. Essentially that says that to get a true value on the intelligence of an animal you must divide the brain size by the body weight. This produces the result that because dolphins weigh more than humans the high denominator in the calculation pulls down the “intelligence” of dolphins viz humans.

I propose to Lori that a large part of dolphin weight is simply blubber that requires no brain functions to control it.

Her answer was complex.

(To be continued)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shark finning horror in Japan

by Hardy Jones

Attached to this blog you will find a photo of the catch from a single Japanese shark fishing boat. It will give you an idea of a process that is exterminating sharks worldwide. BV http://www.bluevoice.org is funding a study of mercury levels in sharks as part of an effort to dry up the market for shark products.
Photo by Circlet. Copyright Circlet, BlueVoice.org

More soon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Day at BlueVoice Home Base

Email is both a bane and the source of our ability to make a worldwide impact. When I arrive at my desk about 8:30 each morning I download 50 to 80 emails. After trashing the junk I’m still left with maybe thirty pressing communications from around the world. Next I have to make an evaluation of those that are “burning” - something that needs immediate attention.

Here are the email transactions for December 28,2009.

Email from Dieter Hagmann, video of bottlenose dolphins that have been killed. Dolphin hunters appear to be using a new way of killing dolphins so there will be no blood. How do we use this information? Who will pay attention over the holidays and with so much other news breaking.

Email from Sakae from ELSA Nature Conservancy (our ally in Japan). Email sent 3:00am her time. As always she’s burning the midnight oil. She confirms what I also see in Dieter’s video – that some of the dead dolphins are bottlenose.

Query prompts me to do a quick Google on Brucellosis in dolphins and whales around Japan. There are many cases. How do we prove there is disease in dolphin meat at Taiji? That would really whack the market for dolphin meat.

Video arrives reporting death of a dolphin named Rasca, attributed to Navy sonar. Seemed to be a news report but had an air of fakery. Put out word to list serve Cetacean Freedom Network for verification.

Sue Arnold (Australians for Animals) email via CFN. She’s working on getting world religious leaders to go to Taiji to bear witness.

Word comes through that the dog we fostered has been adopted. Beautiful picture of Sunshine with her new family.

Email from Jim Abernathy (who runs the dive boat Shearwater) discussing impact of high mercury in human tissues on human sexual dysfunction. BV is sending him video of a shark fishery in Japan for use on his website re his new book on sharks.

I email Dr. Jane Hightower, world class authority on mercury contamination on humans and author of “Diagnosis Mercury” for analysis of mercury impact on human sexual dysfunction.

Email from Dr. Sidney Holt, one of the original and longest workers on behalf of whale and dolphins. He lives now in Italy and we reconnected through the internet. We back-and-forth on diseases such as brucellosis in whale and dolphin meat. Danger to humans? Tool to destroy the market for whale and dolphin meat?

Email reporting a major article will come out in Japan on mercury in dolphin meat and in those who eat it. Japanese scientists testing people of Taiji appear to be covering up results on who has mercury poisoning.

Email from several CFNers – the video on Rasca is not genuine news. Turns out to be a clip from a feature film in the making.

Dr. Hightower replies to my inquiry - there is ample reason to think high mercury impacts sexual function. Certainly lowers sperm count and affects nervous system.

A $400 dollar donation arrives. Nice lift for us. We appreciate the money but also the support.

More video arrives from Dieter. I take a deep breath and open it. Starts with three men hauling a bottlenose into the cove. The dolphin is brought under a green tarpaulin. No blood is seen. Soon a dolphin sling attached to the side of a boat comes out from under the tarp headed for the holding pens. This dolphin will be trained and sold for entertainment.

Rest of the afternoon will be reviewing three hours of Dieter's video of dolphin slaughter in Taiji. A grim prospect.