Friday, 21 December 2007

The Dolphin People TV series

We have been working for several years on a TV series, entitled "The Dolphin People". We began principle filming in 2005, and have, to date, completed the first hour of a projected four-part series.

Our Director/Producer/Cinematographer/Editor friend, Richard Mordaunt, has recently returned from a journey to New York, where he attended an international congress on documentary films, meeting with commissioning editors from many companies around the world. We await their responses, confident that we will secure a production deal to complete the series.

Here is a promotional clip:


To obtain copies of "The Dolphin People" one-hour TV program on DVD, write to
Copies sell for $30 + $6 postage and handling.

The Ambassadors

The Question of Tradition

Japan 'backs down on humpback hunt'
From correspondents in Tokyo
December 20, 2007 01:00am
Article from: Reuters

JAPAN has apparently agreed not to kill humpback whales during its current Antarctic hunt, the US ambassador to Tokyo said today, a move that could help ease criticism of its controversial whaling program.
Japan's whaling fleet set sail last month with plans to catch more than 1000 whales, including 50 humpbacks, which are popular among whale-watchers for their distinctive silhouettes and acrobatic leaps, before returning to port early next year.
Humpbacks were hunted to near extinction until the International Whaling Commission ordered their protection in 1966 and the planned hunt had sparked a loud outcry from activists.
"I think we had an agreement ... between the United States and Japan that humpback whales would not be harvested, I think, until maybe the International Whaling Conference in June,'' US ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer said.
Because of migration patterns, the delay would mean it would be "a while before they are at risk again,'' Mr Schieffer said.
Australia yesterday announced that it would send a fisheries patrol ship to shadow Japan's whaling fleet near Antarctica and gather evidence for a possible international court challenge to halt the yearly hunt.
Separately, Greenpeace sent a ship yesterday to try to stop the Japanese fleet hunting whales.
Japan has long resisted pressure to stop what it calls scientific whaling, insisting that whaling is a cherished cultural tradition.
"Japan's whaling is being conducted in line with international treaties and for the purpose of scientific research. We would like to win the understanding of others,'' a Japanese foreign ministry spokesman said in Tokyo.


The "cherished cultural tradition" mentioned should be seen like the "cherished tradition" of early English (Saxon) people*, the people of Easter Island**, the native people of the California coast***, who were also dolphin and whale eaters. It proved unsustainable in each case, wreaking havoc on local ecologies. With the extremely high levels of toxic chemicals now found in the meat of dolphins and whales (they are at the top of the chain of "bio-accumulation" and concentrate the toxins in their blubber and the milk of nursing mothers, passing it on from generation to generation, each time gaining in concentrated killing power) the tradition of "cetaceans on the menu" is now deadly. It is time to end this "tradition".

Since the actual tradition of the Japanese whalers and dolphin hunters was to hunt and kill and eat the cetaceans from the waters around Japan (which still goes on in the tens of thousands each year, now), what does killing the whales of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary have to do with tradition?

It just doesn't make any sense.

The Ambassadors


* "Continuing study of the huge middle and late-Saxon vertebrate assemblage from Flixborough, North Lincolnshire, has shown that the inhabitants of this important settlement were consuming whale and dolphin meat. More than twenty fragments of these marine mammals have been recovered from only 10% of the material so far recorded. These animals may have been caught at sea or, more likely, in the nearby Humber estuary where they may have been stranded. It is possible that they represent trade with the nearby east coast fisheries, although the almost negligible quantities of marine fish from the site appear not to support this theory. More specific identification of the species of whale and dolphin will provide valuable information about the past distribution of cetaceans since all are rare or uncommon visitors to these waters today."


** "During the later centuries of the Mayan civilization, a new society was evolving on faraway Easter Island, some 166 square kilometers of land in the South Pacific roughly 3,200 kilometers west of South America and 2,200 kilometers from Pitcairn Island, the nearest habitation. Settled around ad 400, this civilization flourished on a volcanic island with rich soils and lush vegetation, including trees that grew 25 meters tall with trunks 2 meters in diameter. Archeological records indicate that the islanders ate mainly seafood, principally dolphins—a mammal that could only be caught by harpoon from large sea-going canoes. 

The Easter Island society flourished for several centuries, reaching an estimated population of 20,000. As its human numbers gradually increased, tree cutting exceeded the sustainable yield of forests. Eventually the large trees that were needed to build the sturdy canoes disappeared, depriving islanders of access to the dolphins and dramatically shrinking their food supply. The archeological record shows that at some point human bones became intermingled with the dolphin bones, suggesting a desperate society that had resorted to cannibalism. Today the island has fewer than 4,000 residents."
--Lester Brown


*** "The Dolphin Hunters: A Specialized Prehistoric Maritime Adaptation in the Southern California Channel Islands and Baja California
Judith F. Porcasi, Harumi Fujita
American Antiquity, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Jul., 2000), pp. 543-566

Synthesis of faunal collections from several archaeological sites on the three southernmost California Channel Islands and one in the Cape Region of Baja California reveals a distinctive maritime adaptation more heavily reliant on the capture of pelagic dolphins than on near-shore pinnipeds. Previous reports from other Southern California coastal sites suggest that dolphin hunting may have occurred there but to a lesser extent. While these findings may represent localized adaptations to special conditions on these islands and the Cape Region, they call for reassessment of the conventionally held concept that pinnipeds were invariably the primary mammalian food resource for coastal peoples. Evidence of the intensive use of small cetaceans is antithetical to the accepted models of maritime optimal foraging which assume that shore-based or near-shore marine mammals (i.e., pinnipeds) would be the highest-ranked prey because they were readily encountered and captured. While methods of dolphin hunting remain archaeologically invisible, several island cultures in which dolphin were intensively exploited by people using primitive watercraft and little or no weaponry are presented as possible analogs to a prehistoric Southern California dolphin-hunting technique. These findings also indicate that dolphin hunting was probably a cooperative endeavor among various members of the prehistoric community."

Saturday, 15 December 2007

The Proof is in the Pool

Some recent wonderful moments in our Wellness Program:

We had a woman attend who is a therapist, whose specialty is Cranial-Sacral Therapy. Her skill in her work -- using sensitivity to detect and redirect the pulses of energy that move up and down our spines -- was evident in her approach to the dolphins.

She was a rare person, one who was able to slow down, to look into each moment as it came, and to see the tender details. It seemed, as we took pictures of her experience, that we could not take a poor picture of her. Even when we were using our sequential-shot setting, taking pictures at the rate of 1.7 shots per second, each photo was wonderful. Not easy to edit...

Here she is having a sweet moment with young Bella--

Another guest was a "bird lady". She traveled to Coffs Harbour from western Victoria with her birds. She loves her birds, and her sensitive understanding of them was expressed in her hands -- and they were fascinating to Bella. She approached the woman repeatedly, requesting contact, rubbing against her, spinning around and returning for more touch, more strokes, and especially, having her tail rubbed and massaged.

Here is a single frame of a long string of photos from their time together--

One thing that has become very evident: when you want to get the attention of dolphins, do something interesting. Sometimes the best thing to do is to ignore them and do something they will find odd -- like swim away from them toward the empty deep end of the pool....

Our time among the dolphins -- swimming, diving, dreaming, listening and learning -- is about to take a short break. We will be away from them for about six weeks, during the busy season of the year, when they entertain thousands of visitors. We, and the PPP staff, are careful to not ask too much of them. The dolphins are very busy keeping so many people happy at this time of year.

Our Dolphin EDventures Wellness Program will recommence in February. For details, go to

A final image:
Amanda among the pod...

Scott and Amanda
The Ambassadors

Thursday, 29 November 2007

In defense of Dolphin-Assisted Therapy

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) has recently chosen to start a campaign against Dolphin-Assisted Therapy (DAT). Using a recently published paper, they claim to have scientific evidence that DAT is ineffective.

There are a few problems with this…

As the founding Director of the Cetacean Studies Institute, founded in 1996, and long-time researcher into the effectiveness of Dolphin-Assisted Therapy (DAT), I feel compelled to comment.

The review of DAT research cited by WDCS written by Marino and Lilienfeld has many errors in it. Titled “Dolphin-Assisted Therapy: More Flawed Data and More Flawed Conclusions”, it is itself littered with flaws.

Without any clear definition of what Dolphin-Assisted Therapy is, the Marino-Lilienfeld paper makes unsupported accusations against well-developed and well-proven therapeutic programs of therapy that include dolphins. It does not adequately differentiate between real DAT programs and “swim-with-dolphins” programs.

The paper suggests, for instance, that any person swimming with dolphins is undertaking some kind of intentional therapy. It cites research having to do with injuries sustained by people in commercial swim programs, and it cites only one side of the debate about whether diseases can be transmitted between dolphins and humans as part of its basis for describing DAT as an “unsubstantiated intervention”.

Here is the final conclusion in this paper:

“At the very least, we believe that DAT practitioners should be required to inform parents and, when relevant, participants, of the absence of evidence for DAT’s enduring effects on psychological symptoms. Only then can consumers of DAT make adequately informed decisions regarding the costs and benefits of this unsubstantiated intervention.”

Yes, DAT is, so far, unsubstantiated by the research cited by Marino et al.. Does this mean that it is ineffective?

The main issue here is whether DAT has a positive and long-lasting effect on the lives of patients and their families. Instead of addressing this question, which would necessitate actual research, extensive interviews, arranging for standardized measuring instruments to be deployed to discover and document changes, and a host of other expensive and time consuming research, Marino and Lilienfeld have taken the safe arm-chair route. They have reviewed some of the very few research papers ever published to see if they can stand up to an extremely rigorous analysis of their scientific validity.

Reviewing the validity of research is not the same as doing research.

We could all benefit from a review of the available research and suggestions about how it can be performed better. If this had been their intent, Marino and Lilienfeld's review could have been truly useful. Instead, they selected papers to critique and pursued a predetermined mission to condemn DAT -- without doing any research themselves into the effectiveness of Dolphin-Assisted Therapy.

In our many years of studying DAT, visiting facilities, interviewing therapists, patients, family members, trainers, doctors, medical technicians, as well as filming dozens of sessions, collecting patient stories, and operating a small Wellness Program ourselves, we have seen many wonderful results.

Literally thousands of families have had their entire family history changed for the better through the effectiveness of good DAT programs.

To date no one has created an accurate definition of Dolphin-Assisted Therapy. However, just as the Supreme Court Justice said, “I know it when I see it”, one can visit some of the DAT programs around the world to see what it is. We recommend Island Dolphin Care, in Key Largo, Florida ( as the most professional, effective, and long term program, under trained medical professionals, run as a non-profit organization, as the model for high standards.

The results -- improved lives -- are the means by which to evaluate DAT.

Our program ( here in Australia works with rescued dolphins and their progeny. These dolphins would be dead, long ago, if they had not been rescued. Now, as dolphins living among humans, it is important that they have life experiences that are enriching, stimulating, and as safe as possible to help them maintain their health. We know that our interactions with these dolphins are a real benefit to them as well as a benefit to those people who swim among them.

DAT needs to be investigated more fully. Research needs to be done by competent, well-funded scientists, who have no bias or agenda to push. Until this is done, we will have ill-informed campaigns such as the WDCS campaign, and the misdirection of papers such as the one by Marino and Lilienfeld.

Scott Taylor

Friday, 9 November 2007

A "human-like" dolphin

Recently we were in Florida, visiting our friends at, where we were hosted to present an evening of Dolphin Embassy news and updates to a community of old friends, new friends, and a variety of local experts on dolphins and whales. We had a wonderful time sharing the news of our latest work, and viewing footage from several dolphin and whale researchers.

While in Florida, one focus was to catch up with the team we have been collaborating with on a special research project. This project was focused on a stranded dolphin, her conditions, and the birth of her calf.

Castaway was stranded on Castaway Beach in south Florida. She was a single stranding, an unusual event. When she was examined, it was discovered that she was unusual in other ways. She was pregnant, and she was deaf.

How a dolphin becomes deaf is not fully known. She may have suffered ear infections -- she had none at the time of her stranding -- she may have been born deaf. Most likely she was the survivor of infection. Her pregnant condition may have forced her to choose to head toward land, as her deafness probably left her feeling very vulnerable. But then, what do we know of the choice to head toward shore by a dolphin?

In any case, she presented both huge challenges and some special opportunities for research.

A team was formed to address her situation and she was transferred from the original stranding organisation's facility to a facility we have become familiar with, the excellent Marine Mammal Conservancy, on Key Largo.

Because of her situation, her questionable health, and the need to keep her isolated from other dolphins, we knew that her infant was going to be without an essential element in its development in the womb -- no sounds from other dolphins, or from Castaway herself. Castaway made some sounds, but similar to deaf humans, there was little dynamic range or variation to her sonic output. We decided to enrich her environment by providing supplemental dolphin sounds.

The first and easy part was to get recordings from Dolphins Plus, a few miles away, of their pregnant dolphin and the others who shared her pool. These recordings were played to Castaway -- and her growing fetus -- in two daily sessions. The next step was more difficult. We wanted some kind of live interaction for the new infant. We arranged to have a telephone link set up to provide a live and open phone line between the two facilities! This was widely reported in the national and international media.

We wondered: "How does a baby dolphin gain it's language?", "Where does the signature whistle originate, from the young calf, or from the mother?", "How will a mother communicate with her calf without sound?", "How will a deaf mom affect the calf in it's feeding?", and many more questions.

We decided to set up 24 hour video and sound recorders to watch the process.

Sadly, the calf was born only to perish five days later. There was nothing more that could have been done. To see the full story of Castaway and her son Wilson, visit

Research continues with Castaway, but the opportunity to watch the process of language acquistion by a new calf will have to await another opportunity. Will Castaway become pregnant again? Time will tell.

When we visited, we were able to go to the MMC, see the amazing birthing pen that was built, and then go to Dolphins Plus, where Castaway now makes her home. We were invited to swim with her.

This was truly a highlight in our 25 years of dolphin interaction, and literally hundreds and hundreds of dolphin swim encounters. What an amazingly different dolphin she is.

Castaway can be, with all due respect, be thought of as a sort of "human-like" dolphin, in that she depends entirely, as we do, on her sight and touch in the water. She was more than friendly...she approached right away and began to caress us. She swam beside us, so close we had to backpedal to be able to take pictures. She gazed into our eyes, closely and steadily. Her gentleness -- she is a very large Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, at least 2.5 meters long -- and presence were startling in their power. We were deeply moved by her tender play and seeming fascination with these new people.

After so many months of having humans lift her, measure her, help her thru a difficult birth, the loss of her calf, and all the odd things we humans do when trying to care for dolphins in distress -- hydration, injections, massage, staring at them night and day -- after all that, she was so gentle and loving, so very close and curious about us.

Thank you, Castaway, for one of our most amazing encounters. We will continue to visit you, to spend time contemplating the destiny that brought you to the human world, and the role of Ambassador that you play.

The Ambassadors

Renewing old friendships

We have just begun our Summer 2007 Dolphin EDventures Wellness Program (see for details). After a brief and intense trip to the US, which included a visit to Florida where we had some special time with Castaway (see the next blog entry), we have returned to our important work here in Australia -- we are enjoying one of our favorite activities -- introducing new friends to our old friends, Buck, Zip, Calamity, and Bella.

The dolphins who live at the Pet Porpoise Pool are unique, and their circumstances have largely contributed to this. Two were rescued from dire circumstances in which they would, no doubt, have died. After months of recovery, they were deemed to be unable to survive at sea, and have been given a promise of a lifetime of excellent care.

If any of you have ever tried to give a dolphin a fine and healthy environment in which to live it's amazing lifestyle, you will know what a huge promise this was.

With Buck, who has been living at the PPP for 36 years, this has proven to be a very big promise. For Calamity, whose tail flukes were nearly severed, her life in the pools at the PPP have been her only chance at a happy and safe life. Calamity has recovered so well that she has given birth to Bella.

Bella, born in July of 2005, has delighted us since we first met her. Swimming with her since she was about 3 feet long, it feels like we have been partners in her learning and growth, sort of like Aunt and Uncle.

And Zip, also born at the PPP, 18 years old, is a fine example of a healthy and playful dolphin. He specializes in ball play and can make anyone say "Wow" when he puts on his display.

Our return to our season of dolphin swims is very much appreciated by us, and we believe, by the four dolphins. We provide a very real kind of enrichment to them, living in the reduced circumstances of human-managed pools. We play, we dive, we float and listen, we stand and receive their attentions. We do not ask them to perform any behaviours. Instead, we believe that most people want as authentic an experience of dolphins as this circumstance can allow, and we support that. We do not want the dolphins to have to "work for us", so we simply play and watch.

And without exception, every guest we have ever had (hundreds so far) has reported an amazing and delightful experience.

Thanks for having us, Friends, we are so happy to be back!

The Ambassadors

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

The Encounter with the "Other"

Underwater among the dolphins, we find ourselves to be the clumsy ones, the ones who do not belong here, but have come for visit. We stare, wide-eyed, at the grace and weightless power of the dolphins as they spin, turn, flip over, and proceed in a new direction before we could tell they were going elsewhere.
They glide and turn, the smallest flicker of their pectoral fins guiding them into a new pattern, a weaving of balance and freedom and desire, their goals fleeting, their aims simple.
We are among Elders, beings who live as one with their world, adjusting their very flexible selves to whatever comes their way.
They communicate their ideas quickly, so quickly. Above our hearing, far above mostly, they whistle and click to each other, offering suggestions and comments to each other -- or do they? What do we know of the content of their communication?

When we study closely the communication of the dolphins, we find that they can respond well to whatever we ask them to, whether it be counting, memory games, sorting words into correct order to accomplish complex tasks, or giving each other instructions on how to do something the other has not ever done before. They can do whatever we ask of them. Yet we do not know what they talk about among themselves. Since we know they are capable of whatever we imagine for them to try, is it not reasonable to imagine that they can communicate in ways we have not asked of them?

Do they speak with a noun-based language? Or are they mostly useing verbs, the moving actions of life to base their language? Or is it of another order altogether? Perhaps the mysterious languages spoken by initiates of arcane studies, who must constuct whole vocabularies to express their occult knowledge is akin to the dolphin's speech. Do they carry on metaphysical exchanges, telling each other of dimensions unknown to us?

What is the cause of the ease, the sense of gentle peace they radiate so much of the time? Do they know something so well that it leaves them knowing not the unease we seem to live within, but somehow know some of the reasons "why" life is as it is? Do their millions of years of living free in the oceans, mostly without fear, give them a transcendental reality, one of deep and abiding trust?

I wonder many times when among them, how they see us. Their gentle knowing seems so wise, so free of entanglement in our "stories".

They can serve as our teachers if we choose. They can represent The Other, the outside being who sees us and reflects an image of the self back to us, if we approach them with respect.

The Ambassadors

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Dispose of properly, please!

toxoplasma gondii

Cat litter killing whales, dolphins, porpoises

Pet owners who flush used cat litter down the lavatory may be responsible for the deaths of whales, dolphins and porpoises around Britain's coast, according to academics and public health experts.

They have found evidence of a common parasite in dead marine mammals and say family cats could be be the unwitting source. Cats are essential to the life cycle of toxoplasma gondii, which can infect most mammals and birds but only as part of the food chain.

The possible link to dolphin deaths has been raised by staff from Swansea and Glamorgan universities and the National Public Health Service for Wales in a letter to the Veterinary Record. They say that in California concern that cat faeces have contributed to sea otter deaths has led to disposal warnings on bags of cat litter. But little is known about infection in marine species around Britain.

Blood samples from dead stranded cetaceans revealed infection in one in 70 harbour porpoises, in six of 21 common dolphins and in the only hump-backed whale tested. Nearly one in eight Swansea University and health service employees admitted flushing cat litter away.
From Wikipedia:
During the first few weeks, the infection typically causes a mild flu-like illness or no illness. After the first few weeks of infection have passed, the parasite rarely causes any symptoms in otherwise healthy adults. However, people with a weakened immune system, such as those infected with HIV, may become seriously ill, and it can occasionally be fatal. The parasite can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and neurologic diseases and can affect the heart, liver, and eyes (chorioretinitis).

The Ambassadors

What does it take to wake up?

In a startling reversal of what most people seem to feel, a CNN QuickVote poll, taken on February 12, 2007, revealed a disturbing attitude among internet users.

Of 19,256 votes cast, 12,060 (63%) stated that "it's fin-tastic (sic)", the proposition that "dolphins and sea lions (be used for) security at a naval base".

Of those same 19,256 voters, only 7,196 (37%) stated that "it's a shipwreck (sic)".

The US Navy, until the beginning of the current war in Iraq, was very secretive about their use of marine mammals as soldiers. Perceiving the huge increase in "patriotism" as an opportunity to gain pubic support for the old programs, suddenly the Navy began posting large amounts of information on the net about the use of dolphins.

There is a monthly desktop "wallpaper calendar" you can download from the Navy dolphin program site. There are powerpoint presentations listing how many species have been tested for their usefulness. Images are available of dolphins carrying sophisticated underwater devices, presumably for detecting mines, etc. There are interior shots of the specialized ships built to deploy dolphins into combat zones....and the list goes on.

How have we moved so far backward in our appreciation for the other form of self-aware, highly developed, compassionate and friendly life on our planet? Clearly, there is much more work to be done to educate the public, helping them to know dolphins and whales as individuals, and as our constant friends and benefactors.

The Ambassadors

The Oxygen Farmers

During the age prior to Antarctic whaling, the abundance of krill, the small shrimp-like creatures who were the whales major food source, was immense. Reports from the earliest sailors to venture far south repeatedly spoke of "vast pastures", of "pea-soup concentrations of the Euphausia (krill) as far as the eye can see", etc.

Krill feeds upon phytoplankton, the tiny ocean plants that are the most productive source of oxygen for our planet. Does this surprise you? Many people believe that the rainforests are the major source of oxygen. This is true for land-based sources, but we must recall that the oceans cover over two-thirds of our planet and the phytoplankton bloom each year is beyond our ability to envision. Literally billions of tons of phytoplankton grows into vast floating mats of plantlife, creating huge rising clouds of oxygen. Krill eat the phytoplankton, and baleen whales eat the krill.

Normal sense tells us that when the whales were removed from the southern seas in the world's most concentrated slaughter ever known, over a period of about one hundred years, that the food they fed upon would increase dramatically. Yet, this does not seem to be the case.

In a paper recently published in "Evolutionary Ecology Research", Volume 9: pages 651–662, written by Jay Willis of the University of Tasmania (Australia), the conclusion states that, paradoxically, the krill abundance has dropped, probably caused by a lifestyle change due to the absence of feeding pressure upon them.

With less krill, the phytoplankton blooms have become unstable, leading to some years of huge over-production of bio-mass, which then releases hydrogen sulfide and methane into the atmosphere as it rots, uneaten. These two gases are among the worst of the Greenhouse Gases, which are culprits in Climate Change.

For the ancient peoples of the world, Whales were known as "Keepers of the Breath", and "The maker of the air". Now we know that the wisdom of our ancestors was more accurate than we imagined. The killing of whales is a crime against all life, as well as an insensitive and cruel anachronism, left over from less enlightened times.

Do you hear, Japan, Norway, Iceland, N. Korea, and the whaling pirates? Please, for our mutual future, stop all whaling. It is a matter of life and breath.

The Ambassadors

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Whaling: Is it still a problem?

(This image is from the Australian Greenpeace website)

For those of you who did not know, we provide here an update on the International Whaling Commission ‘s work.
The 59th International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting was held in Anchorage, Alaska, from 28-31 May.

Once again the outcome was disappointing. Pro-whaling countries failed to overturn the global ban on commercial whaling and the Japanese whaling fleet will again hunt over 1,000 whales in the Southern Ocean this year – including 50 threatened humpbacks and 50 endangered fin whales.

The people of Australia, to secure the future for whales, must insist that the Australian government put the issue of commercial whaling on the agenda in its negotiations with Japan, along with trade and security.

The IWC has agreed to a special meeting to discuss reform, but unless reform means a complete overhaul of the IWC’s original mission statement, The Dolphin Embassy recommends that the IWC be closed down and a new international organization be formed, under the auspices of the UN, to protect all ocean species, especially whales, dolphins, and porpoises. The end of killing must be the goal -- never lost sight of and always the outcome we pursue.

(see for more detailed discussion of this recommendation)

To see the inspiring efforts of several young Australians, go to these YouTube sites:

Skye Bortoli's passion for the whales
Skye Bortoli at the IWC meeting in Alaska

The Ambassadors

Friday, 17 August 2007

TV program Getaway films our swim program

This week we had the pleasure of showing the popular Australian TV travel show Getaway our dolphin swim program. They contacted us several months ago and asked if they could film us. We said, "Of course!"
They brought along Australian Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Gian Rooney as the guest presenter, and filmed for two days.
We met them at the pool, with three friends who agreed to be "extras" and swim with the dolphins (we know, a hard job, but somebody had to do it), at 7 am. We had borrowed heavy wet suits from a local dive shop (Thank You, Jetty Dive Centre!) and were all suited up and ready to go.
The water this time of year is chilly. Too chilly to actually do our swim program, which is all about health, wellbeing, and the joy of interacting with dolphins in a relaxed way. Chilly water is not conducive enough, for most people, to be able to enjoy their time in the water, so we do not run our program at this time of year.
So, as with most TV, it was a bit fake, but with the dolphins, it was still quite real. We had so much fun, diving among them, swimming alongside, seeing them up close, touching them, feeling them wrap their flippers around us and give us a hug.

Gian had a wonderful time, the director was very happy with the footage they got, the cameraman was smiling, and even the sound guy seemed to be happy. The entire crew, even the production assistant, all got in the water with us.

We look forward to seeing the episode on which our segment will run, sometime later in the year (November?). It will be short, about 4 and a half minutes, but we are hopeful it will bring lots of attention to the wonderful opportunity we are offering -- to become friends with four amazing dolphins.

The Ambassadors

Not a silent world

Sonic Pollution, the hidden killer

Underwater, sound travels fast. Almost five times as fast as sound in air (4.7, to be exact). The speed of sound underwater is not the only factor that makes sound so important in the watery world. It is also a much more directly physical energy, one that has high impact.

Decades ago a film made history, one of the first films to be shot underwater with high quality cameras. Shot and presented by Jacques Cousteau, it was called “The Silent World”. It captivated audiences around the world. I was among them, as a young lad, taken by my parents to a theatre that showed the unusual widescreen format that The Silent World was shown in. For all his expertise and “groundbreaking” inventions – the underwater breathing system called SCUBA, or Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, and other innovations – Cousteau could not have gotten it more wrong. The Oceans are full of sound, and many of its lifeforms depend upon their sonic abilities for their survival.

If we are to understand the challenges of the Cetacean Nations, the difficulties they face in their struggles for life, especially those that are “anthropogenic” (human caused) in nature, we must take into account the sonic pollution of the waters.

The millions of years of evolution that the dolphins and whales have been through have adapted them well to the sounds of the natural seas. The snapping shrimp, the crackling of fish, the waves pounding against the shore, the hiss of wind across the surface – all these are normal sounds, ones that can be heard, or consciously ignored. Just as we have selective hearing, enabling us to carry on conversations in noisy clubs, and to hear our names amid the hubbub of a party, dolphins and whales can filter out unwanted sounds, to a degree.

And yet, with the advent of modern technology, humans have been pouring high intensity sounds into the oceans in a deafening cascade.

Consider the facts of global shipping:
• 95% of the world’s trade spends some of its time onboard a ship
• There are over 5,000,000,000 (five billion) tons of cargo shipped each year
• There are over 82,000 ships of significant size plying the oceans
• There are over 4,500 petroleum tankers afloat, nearly all of them underway 24 hours of each and every day

The modern supertanker is something few people have a real perspective on. Imagine a vessel capable of carrying as much petroleum as the United Kingdom and Spain use in one day, which is about 3.2 million barrels. This is a ship that is considered to be a medium sized supertanker. This class of ship can take as many as 50 miles to stop. The momentum of so much mass is almost unimaginable. And oddly enough, these ships often use only one propeller.

The propeller for this type of ship creates a deafening, hissing, endlessly droning flood of sound. Creating “cavitation”, which is tiny bubbles that collapse in billions, over and over, the physics of these propellers is deadly. And they don’t have to be. This is the sad part…

Navies around the world have studied and designed propellers to the nth degree. To avoid detection at sea, a ship must be silent. Propellers have been designed that could eliminate this single source of deadly sound…but they have not been adopted. There is no international oversight for sonic pollution in the oceans, so the deafening goes on, day and night.

First, we must become aware of the problems. Then we can begin to address them. Now we know. Now we can begin to act.

The Ambassadors

Sunday, 5 August 2007

On-going research

With our dolphin-swim program focused on enabling people to have unique levels of contact with dolphins, we have had an excellent opportunity to do research into the effects of dolphin contact. Working with Dr Hunter Handley, a local psychologist, we have done an extensive survey of the moods of our swimmers.

(For details, visit

Using a well-recognised psychological "instrument", called PANAS (Positive and Negative Affect Survey), we have asked our swim participants to rate a list of words that designate emotional states, or feelings, on a scale from 1 to 5, either of low significance up to high significance. This survey is done before the dolphin swim, immediately after the second swim, and again at a randomly chosen date, some weeks post swim.

This enables us to get a reasonable look at the change in mood that occurs as a result of the dolphin encounter and its lasting effect.

We had 68 people in our program this past season, with 52 of them eligible for our research program. So far, 35 have responded. We are almost complete, and expect 4 more responses. This gives us a fairly large sample and the results are very interesting.

We will withhold reporting the final results for a while longer, until we have all the responses in hand. Our intention, working with Dr Handley, is to publish our results in a peer-reviewed journal. As a contribution to the field of Dolphin-Assisted Therapy research, this should be a significant paper. There have been few papers ever published in this promising field and we hope to improve that.

Stay tuned for more information, the results of our research, and a link to the eventual location of the published paper.

Thanks, Hunter, for all your hard work. It has been a pleasure working with you on this worthy project.

The Ambassadors

Sunday at poolside

We went for a short visit this afternoon, to see our friends, Buck, Zip, Calamity, and Bella. All were in good form, each doing something unique to show us they remember us.
Buck came over to us, at poolside, right away, staying long enough to identify us, let us stroke his rostrum, then went his own way. He had things to do...
Zip came over and watched us, then, when I put a ball in the pool, he grabbed it and began offering it to me. He would push it toward me, then back away with his mouth open wide. I tossed it to him about 20 times, then began pushing it down under water and letting it go, so he could catch it. He seemed fascinated by this, giving it his full attention. A nice game, we played for another few minutes before he took the ball over to Amanda.
Calamity came over, looked at me, slid onto the side of the pool with her face, and stopped still. She looked, then slid back into the water, and began a circuit of the pool.
Bella had held back for a while, then began swimming alongside Calamity, doing the circuit. It was like old times, when Bella was tiny, a shadow under Calamity all the time. Then Bella decided to come close and gave both Amanda and me a kiss, putting her rostrum over the wall, holding still, while we bent over and kissed her. She gave us each one, then swam off.

Amanda got the camera out (a small Olympus that can be used under water) and took some photos. Of course, Bella came over right away, to see what was happening, and since she loves cameras, posed for some nice shots.

It was a nice visit. We learned that a small seal had been brought to the rescue facility only days ago, and we got a peek at it. So tiny, vulnerable looking. We hear it cannot be released, so it will become a resident somewhere, perhaps here in Coffs Harbour.

Another day for the Embassy...

The Ambassadors

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Report on Secret Soviet Whaling now out

Soviet Factory ship, Slava, circa 1965 (photographer unknown)

A remarkable report has just been published detailing the illegal whaling activities of the Soviet Union in the years between 1955-1978. The information it is based on is impeccable: the actual reports of the whaling ships themselves, from a Russian government archive in Vladivostok, Russia.

"The authors (of the original reports. - ed.) were all scientists who worked at different times with the whaling fleets concerned...

The reports document dramatic declines in abundance, disappearances of whales from previously populous feeding and breeding areas, and a continual decline in the average size and age of animals in the catch as the over-exploitation reached critical levels. Also recorded are the repeated warnings of the reports’ authors that the catch levels could not be sustained without severe damage to (or extirpation of) the populations concerned. However, it is apparent that all such warnings were routinely ignored by the Soviet authorities in their quest to meet high production targets."

A pdf of the full publication is available for free download at:

The era of Russian illegal whaling was one of terrible consequences. Despite the International Whaling Commissions attempts to curtail whaling, to make it sustainable, various nations and many illegal pirate whalers (notable among them was Aristotle Onassis, whose pirate whaling activities were among the worst) kept up the relentless slaughter. When the moratorium (def: a temporary cessation of activities) was finally put in place in the 1980s, it was too late. The affected whale populations were doomed, and still have made, in most species, little headway toward species survival.

Now, with sonic pollution from many sources, military, industrial, and oil and mineral exploration, plus the ongoing drone of global petroleum shipping, the large whales have little chance of recovery. As mostly solitary whales, they depend on sonic messages to locate each other for mating, and can no longer find each other easily. It is too noisy in the whale's bedroom...

What have we done to Mother Ocean? It is time to take a good long look at what we have done, and begin to rethink our priorities. It is time to shape ourselves to meet the needs of the world, rather than endlessly expect the world to shape itself to our needs.

The Ambassadors

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Recent very troubling research

A report posted July 17th, 2007, on a scientific forum has shown that in Brazilian waters, as many as 83 dolphins were killed in a single fish netting operation. This is part of the ongoing, and little documented, killing of dolphins by local fishermen in fisheries around the world.

A quote from the posting:
"We have just concluded a one-year monitoring program for incidental catches of small dolphins in the gillnet fishery operating off northern Brazil.
Since August 2006, a total of 11 field trips were monitored onboard a fishing vessel operating off the coast of Amapa' State. The main target are 'pescada-amarela' and 'gurijuba', higly prized in the fish markets of Brazil. It was detected a large by-catch of dolphins, all of them Sotalia.
Molecular analysis of a large sample set of Sotalia specimens were conducted at Fiocruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. All specimens were identified as S. guianensis.
Numbers of dolphins found entangled varied from one to 83 in a single boat operating off the northern Brazilian coast."

Sotalia dolphins are commonly known as the Tucuxi, an unusual dolphin, in that it can live in both salt and fresh water. It is sometimes seen as far inland as the foot of the Andes, 1,500 miles up the Amazon River. Its ocean range is from Nicaragua to southern Brazil.

A small dolphin, it weighs from 75 to 100 pounds (35-45k), from 4.5 to 6 ft (1.3 to 1.8m) long.
It is a beautiful, small, elegant dolphin, sometimes confused with Bottlenose Dolphin calves.

No one knows how many there are. Fewer and fewer each day, it seems....

Remember, dolphins are not under any form of direct international protection, such as the Whaling Moratorium of the International Whaling Commision, a UN supported organization. Only local, and international concern protects them.

The Ambassadors

Windows on the wet world

Our aim is to increase understanding of the world of the cetaceans. To achieve this, we will be posting a variety of items here. We will give you personal tales of our work and lives among the dolphins (and whales) in our area, and in our travels, as well as items from our ongoing research, collection of important facts from many sources not normally available to the general public, and more.

The Ambassadors

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

A visit to the pool

We went over to see the dolphins yesterday afternoon. It was great to see them after having been away for a few weeks. Calamity is doing well with her "over the wall' move, from the small show pool, back into the big pool. She has been resistant for a while, after having felt discomfort going over the wall when pregnant. Now that Bella is two years old -- amazing, that she is already two! -- Calamity has decided it is not such a big deal.

Bella goes over the wall easily, just a little flick of the tail and over she goes.

Zip is fine, he came around for a bit of play. He loved Amanda's game, to take the ball and push it under water, letting it go so Zip can catch it on the way up. He likes the weird, upside down "bounce" it does, we think. He played long enough for Amanda's hands and arms to get quite cold, then wandered off to do his own thing, as usual.

Buck came over right away, and played with us for quite a while. He loves to play catch. He brings a soggy old soccer ball over, one that has leaks, is half full of water and heavy. He gives it to you, you pick it up and toss it back to him. He only backs away about three feet, so the toss is short. He likes it when you toss it right into his mouth. After catching it he simply shoves it back across the water at you. He did this for about fifteen minutes.

Part of our reason for the visit was to talk to the Manager about an upcoming event. We have been asked by Getaway (, Australian TV's leading travel show, to film our dolphin swim program, in the middle of next month. We were expecting this, as one of the women who came along last season for a swim spoke of her close friendship with the producer, and asked for information to forward to them. We are so excited by this!

So, standing beside the pools, the bright sun shining into the brillant blue water, we could feel for ourselves how cold the water is. We don't do our swim program this time of year -- winter here in Australia -- because of the cold. So...we will be climbing into the water in about four weeks, to swim with the dolphins? Yikes! Ah, what you do for advertising....

Stay tuned, we will keep you updated on that part of our on-going dolphin stories.