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"Everyone Loves a Dolphin"

environmental issues Over the years numerous articles have been written about the Bottlenose Dolphin. This is the environment's one animal that is constantly being exploited. The Japanese kill hundreds of these animals every year. Many Dolphins are held in captivaty for various Dolphin encounter programs.

My article today is to educate everyone on just what a Dolphin is and also my first hand encounters with these amazing mammals.

The Dolphin is believed to be the most intelligent animal on Earrth. Their worldwide population is around 250,000. In Japan the population is the lowest, about 35,000.

The Dolphin's life span is from 30 to 50 years. They are very playful, social animals with a carefree nature. They usually hunt in groups and in many areas especially in Hilton Head, South Carolina they will actually herd fish right up on shore so they can catch them. They are found in both Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and usually weigh between 440 to 600 pounds with an average length of around 10 feet.. They will eat between 13 and 33 pounds of food per day. They feed mostly on fish and squid. The Bottlenose Dolphin is mainly named after the shape of its beak-like snout. Its nose however is the blowhole on the top of its head. The Dolphin locates food by what is known as echolocation or a type of sonar. They actually locate objects by producing sounds and listening for the echo. To hear the returning echo they have two small ear openings behind the eyes, but most sound waves are transmitted to the inner ear through the lower jaw. This is truly an amazing feature. The Dolphin also has excellent vision both underwater and in air.

environmental issues We have heard of many stories regarding the friendly behavior of Dolphins and probably the most famous is the following: "In November 2004, a more dramatic report of dolphin intervention came from New Zealand. Four lifeguards, swimming 100m off the coast near Whangarei, were reportedly approached by a 3m Great White Shark. A group of Bottlenose Dolphins, apparently sensing danger to the swimmers, herded them together and tightly surrounded them for forty minutes, preventing an attack from the shark, as they returned to shore. "

I have had many up close and personal experiences with Dolphins but probably the most memorble happened here in St. Maarten. We were anchored over 'French Reef', about a mile offshore. I was not feeling well that day so I was doing 'boat watch' while the group of divers where enjoying themselves underwater. I was sitting in one of the chairs with my back to the water when I heard this splashing behind me. I thought it was probably one of the divers so I turned around to look and here are two Bottlenose Dolphins right next to the ladder looking at me. They started jumping out of the water and beckoning me to come in and play with them, unfortunately I wasn't able to, so the Dolphins went and joined the divers who then spent over one hour playing with them. When we finally had to leave, the Dolphins followed our boat all the way back to Pelican Point.

In this day and age few people disagree with the fact that this wonderful animal should be protected. They are not meant for captivity or cruel treatment. If you can witness first hand the way these animals survive in the wild like I have you will agree with me.

My final story for today again comes from New Zealand. "On Mahia Beach, New Zealand, March 10, 2008 two pygmy Sperm Whalesfemale and calf-becarne stranded on the beach. Rescuers, including Department of Conservation officer Malcolm Smith, attempted to refloat the whales, however their efforts failed four times. Shortly before the whales were to be euthanized a playful Bottlenose Dolphin known to local residents as Moko arrived and, after seemingly communicating with the whales, led them 200 meters along a sandbar to the open sea."

Our environment and eco system is so important....it needs our top priority NOW!

Next week we will discuss the most ferocious predator in the sea, The Great White Shark and how important he is to the oceans eco system!