Subject: Dolphin: Friendly Dolphin in Aruba Studied (fwd)

Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Mon, 5 Oct 1998 14:25:18 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 5 Oct 1998 05:25:29 -0700
From: MARMAM Editors <marmamed@UVic.CA>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
     <MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA>
To: MARMAM@UVVM.UVIC.CA
Subject: Friendly Dolphin in Aruba Studied (fwd)

From: "Dr.Antonio A.Mignucci-Giannoni" <mignucci@caribe.net>

Friendly Dolphin in Aruba Studied

Oranjestad, Aruba, 28 Sep 1998---For the past two weeks, a wild dolphin
near the south central coast of Aruba, has been the main attraction in
this southern Caribbean island. The lone dolphin first appeared on 15
September at Mangel Halto (Balashi) and immediately began interacting
and playing with local swimmers.

Soon, the word got around the island and hundreds flocked to see the
toothed cetacean and swim with it. Local residents and government
officials began patrolling the area to protect the dolphin and control
the masses of residents and tourist alike which wanted to interact with
the dolphin.

In the need for guidance on how to better protect the animal, identified
as a roughtooth dolphin (Steno bredanensis, a species common to the
Caribbean), the Land Veeteelt Visserij Department, the local natural
resources management agency, requested the assistance of the Caribbean
Stranding Network (CSN), to assess the situation. The CSN is an
international non-profit organization based in Puerto Rico, which works
on research and conservation of endangered marine mammals, specifically
whales, dolphins and manatees, and has assisted Venezuela, Colombia,
Dominican Republic, Mexico, Costa Rica and British Virgin Islands in
establishing similar marine mammal research and conservation programs.

A team of five CSN personnel traveled to Aruba during the weekend, lead
by Dr. Antonio Mignucci-Giannoni, professor of oceanography at the
Universidad Metropolitana in San Juan, Puerto Rico. During their visit,
the CSN personnel confirmed species identification and assess the
behavior of the dolphin. In addition, two aerial surveys were flown
around the island to search for any possible dolphin groups the dolphin
could join once it leaves the estuarine lagoon (Spaans Lagoen) it now
frequents.

"The major findings of the brief study tell us that the animal is most
probably a 'known' dolphin, which used to be captive in Colombia six
years ago," said Dr. Mignucci. In the spring of 1990, eight roughtooth
dolphins were captured by an aquarium in Islas del Rosario off
Cartagena, Colombia, and kept captive for a number of months. The
aquarium kept and trained one of the male dolphins, naming him Pirata,
detailed Dr. Mignucci.  The oceanographer explained that Pirata was
trained for performances, and did so very amazingly and with great
agility, but was somewhat mischievious compared to the other dolphins
held captive at the aquarium. A number of times he broke the fence and
gates keeping them captive. The aquarium owner decided sometime in the
spring of 1992 to release the animal before any further damage or an
accident with the other dolphins could occur.

Dr. Mignucci recalls visiting Islas del Rosario and playing with
Pirata in April 1990 while captive, espcially playing a game of tag and
catch with a piece of cloth. The behavior was very particular as the
dolphin, different that the other roughtooth dolphins kept, would pass
the cloth from his mouth to his flippers and tail while passing close to
the person in the enclosure in an attempt to get the swimmer to take the
cloth away. Once the swimmer was able to grab the cloth, which was not
easy, the dolphin will try to steal it from him at great speeds,
starting the game all over again. "The dolphin at Spaans Lagoen, also a
male roghtooth, behaves exactly in the same way, playing the game
exactly with the same rules, as the animal in Islas del Rosario did
eight years ago," explained Dr. Mignucci. He said that he is most
positive that this dolphin is Pirata, which has leisurely traveled west
of the Cartagena shores, during the past six years, probably interacting
for brief periods of time with local dolphin schools along the way, and
now visiting Aruban waters.

The CSN recommended the Aruban authorities to continue monitoring the
dolphin, and based on the fact that wild dolphins have been known at
times to display aggressive behavior towards humans, for safety reasons,
to prohibit and enforce people approaching the animal. Dr. Mignucci
explained that dolphins, being wild animals, not only may exhibit sexual
aggressive behavior, but also may cause zoonosis, which is the
transmission of diseases between humans and animals, and vice-versa.
"Our recommendations are that no swimming should be allowed and the
access of boats and jet-skies near the animal be prohibited and enforced
by government officials", said Dr. Mignucci. The marine biologist
explained that great effort should be placed also in not feeding the
dolphin, as this would reinforce his dependence on humans. "If these
recommendations are enforced, the animal should slowly and on his own
move out of the lagoon, which hopefully would allow him to find a school
of dolphins to join and interact with," concluded Dr. Mignucci.


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