Mysterious beaked whale smashes mammal diving record

beaked whaleImage copyrightDANIELLE WAPLES/DUKE UNIVERSITY

A little known, shy whale has surprised scientists by staying submerged for almost four hours.

Cuvier’s beaked whales are known for their abilities to dive deep and they average around an hour under water.

But researchers were astounded when they recorded one animal diving for three hours and 42 minutes.

They believe that it is the longest dive yet recorded for any whale and almost certainly a record for all mammals as well.

Beaked whale species are a bit of mystery to scientists, spending much of their time far from shore.

The Cuvier’s beaked whale has a stout body, a small sloping head and short beak. Males appear to have two teeth which they use for fighting, females don’t seem to have any.

beaked whaleImage copyrightDANIELLE WAPLES/DUKE UNIVERSITY
Image captionA group of three beaked whales

They normally hunt squid for food, usually sucking the creatures into their mouths to eat them.

Scientists say that in pursuing their favourite food, these whales have been documented diving down to around 3,000m.

When they surface they spend about two minutes before diving again, meaning it is very difficult for researchers to observe and tag them.

In 2014, one whale was recorded diving for just over two hours, the longest known time underwater.

In this latest study, researchers recorded more than 3,600 dives by two dozen Cuvier’s beaked whales over a five-year period.

They recorded dives lasting from around half an hour to two hours thirteen minutes, well past the point at which an animal of this size should run out of oxygen.

But two dives by one individual whale “astounded” the research team.

One was almost three hours long, another three hours 42 minutes.

beaked whaleImage copyrightANDREW READ/DUKE UNIVERSITY
Image captionA beaked whale showing a tag

“The longest dive for the species was about two and a half hours, so this is the longest for Cuvier’s beaked whales, but it’s also the longest for any mammal,” Dr Nicola Quick, from Duke University in Durham, US, told BBC News.

While this one individual was recorded completing these extremely long dives, Dr Quick says her study showed that a large percentage of the animals observed were capable of going under for very long periods.

The researchers speculate that the whales might have an extremely slow metabolism, perhaps coupled with larger than average oxygen stores, and an ability to tolerate the build up of lactic acid.

“Their body muscles are sort of built differently, from what you maybe would expect from a deep diver,” said Dr Quick.

“They have sort of smaller brains, and quite a small lung volume. And they have a lot of good muscle tissues that are great for holding oxygen stores, which probably helps them to increase their dive durations.”

beaked whaleImage copyrightANDREW READ/DUKE UNIVERSITY
Image captionA male beaked whale showing teeth

Fear may also have played a part in the record dive.

This species is vulnerable to killer whales and larger sharks. The whales react to threats by staying underwater as long as possible, until the predators move away.

And the deep dive may also have been in response to humans. The record took place some 24 days after exposure to a US Navy active sonar signal, and the researchers excluded them from their data set, as they could potentially have been impacted by the noise.

Cuvier’s beaked whales are known to be sensitive to sonar and other experts believe that this may have had an impact on the dive length.

“The recorded dive time of more than three hours is likely not typical, and instead the result of an individual pushed to its absolute limits,” said Nicola Hodgkins from Whale and Dolphin Conservation, who was not involved with the study.

“Only one whale, thought to already be compromised as a result of being exposed to extremely high levels of noise from military sonar, and therefore showing abnormal behaviour, was recorded undertaking such extreme dives.”

The research team found that there was little relationship between the length of dive and the recovery time needed by the whales before going down once again.

The scientists believe that studying these deep diving animals could offer some clues to challenging questions such as cancer in humans.

“There’s some interest in working with colleagues in oncology in Duke University, and even with Covid, as that involves cells losing oxygen or being in hypoxic conditions,” said Dr Quick.

“So if these whales are in these hypoxic conditions in their tissues, and if we can find out what they were doing, then could that have some other implication for human health or just ocean health in general?”

Pigs are as smart as dogs. Why do we eat one and love the other?

There’s a paradox on our plates.

A dog and a pig sniff each other through a fenceInti St Clair/Tetra Images via Getty Images

Imagine a dog. She spends her entire life in an iron crate so small that she cannot turn around. Her tail has been cut off so that other dogs in cages jammed up against hers won’t chew it off in distress. When she has puppies, the males are castrated without painkillers. They are left close enough for her to nurse, but too far away for her to show them any affection.

Fortunately, this dog is a fictional creation. We have laws preventing people from treating pets this way.

Unfortunately, we are doing this to animals that are very similar to dogs. This is an all-too-real description of how we treat some of the millions and millions of pigs we raise for meat on factory farms.

So why do we treat the animals we eat in ways we would never, ever treat our pets?

For the third season of the Vox Media Podcast Network series Future Perfect, we delve into how the meat we eat affects all of us. In this episode, we speak with Lori Marino, a neuroscientist who studies animal behavior and intelligence, to try to understand this paradox on our plates.

Marino makes it clear that pigs — and even chickens — are intelligent, emotional beings worthy of our moral consideration. She also helps us understand why we don’t consider them morally worthy.

You can subscribe to Future Perfect on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Further reading:

This podcast was made possible thanks to support from Animal Charity Evaluators, a nonprofit that researches and promotes the most effective ways to help animals.

Vegan hits out at ‘horrendous’ fish market sign

A divisive sign advertising for a fish market has angered vegans who have criticised it for spreading a “horrendous” message.

The neon sign was photographed at Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets, in the CBD, and showed three fish in decreasing sizes all swimming towards a fishing hook.

They were positioned next to the words, “fish are food, not friends”, which was a phrase many took issue with after a photo of it was shared to social media.

The man who shared the image described it an “awful sign” which went against his “mantra” of “sealife not seafood”.

Photo shows sign saying 'fish are food, not friends' inside Sydney's Paddy's Markets.
This sign inside Paddy’s Markets caused a stir among vegans. Source: Facebook

“I’m plant based and have been vegan for three years, and vegetarian for ten. For a minute I was pescatarian, to my now dismay,” he wrote to a vegan group.

“But alas we live and learn. This neon sign was very upsetting to come across.”

Others seemed equally offended, agreeing that the sign was “truly awful” and “disgusting”.

“This sign is truly awful. I have never seen it before,” one comment read.

“This is disgusting. Would be such a shame if someone came along and smashed the sign,” another wrote.

The sign seemed to be a play on the common phrase “friends not food”, which is spread widely among vegan circles.

One suggested the sign could work to the vegan movement’s advantage if a child asked their parents what it meant.

“It could so easily backfire and the ‘friends not food’ message is clearly working. Imagine a kid asking their parent what it means, it would have the same impact,” they wrote.

  • “Anything to stay afloat. When these industries feel threatened, they try so hard to stay relevant,” someone else said.

The man who shared the image said the sign didn’t appear to be attached to any business in particular as it was positioned in the main hall of the market and not close to a specific stall.

Despite this, there were several calls for the sign to be “rearranged” – one suggesting that a couple of words could be broken, and another simply saying, “smash it”.

China urged to protect rhinos by ending trophy imports

September 23, 2020 0 Comments

In 2016, China made a historic decision to ban the trade in ivory and other elephant body parts, claiming a spot on the frontlines of the global war to end the trafficking of threatened species. But China is still the world’s second largest importer (after the United States) of hunting trophies from rhinos, who are also threatened with extinction. Demand for rhino horn, a market artificially boosted by wildlife businesses seeking to profit from such imports, has not abated over the years. For China to establish itself as a leader in the fight to halt the trade in body parts of threatened species, it is crucial that the nation end all rhino imports to its shores.

Chinese advocates have been fighting for exactly this outcome and their efforts have gained steam in light of new evidence showing that the global trophy hunting industry is now actively trying to expand its clientele in China. Yesterday, on World Rhino Day, leading Chinese animal protection and conservation organizations held a press conference and released a joint letter, co-signed by 35 groups across China, urging President Xi Jinping and China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration to prohibit the import of rhino hunting trophies to China.

“Trophy hunting is deeply rooted in Western colonialism and incompatible with Chinese history and tradition,” the letter says, adding that the activity “has become a pursuit for the wealthy few in China who can afford to spend a large sum to travel across the globe and take pleasure from killing rare and iconic wild animals, showing off by posing for morbid selfies by the slain animal bodies.”

Leaders of the local group Capital Animal Welfare Association added that China “does not need this cruel trade that panders to the whims of an extremely small number of the rich but does lasting damage to wildlife and to China’s reputation.”

With a growing number of nations legislating against imports of threatened wildlife species body parts in recent years, the trophy hunting industry has turned its attention to places like China where they see an emerging market. Chinese trophy hunters are regularly wooed with globe-trotting trips to kill iconic and rare species such as polar bears, rhinos, elephants and grizzly bears.

Between 2009 and 2018 China declared imports of 46 southern white rhino trophies as well as 33 rhino skins, eight bodies, 112 feet and six tails that also resulted from trophy hunts. Almost all of these originated in South Africa, according to data from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

There are concerns that the actual number of imports could be larger, because in another set of similar CITES data between 2013 and 2016, South Africa reported a total export of 115 rhino horns and trophies destined for China while China declared only 42 imports from South Africa during the same period. CITES recognized this discrepancy in 2019, noting the possibility of a vibrant black market for illegal rhino horns in the country.

The Chinese government can take decisive action on ending the rhino trade to avoid repeating a catastrophe that led to some rhino subspecies being completely wiped out in southwestern China over the last century. ​Illegal trade under the guise of consumer demand has also persisted despite the government’s decision in 1993 to remove rhino horns from the Chinese pharmacopeia, which essentially bans the use of rhino horns in traditional Chinese medicine.

Last year, in a stunning reversal, the Chinese State Council, the nation’s highest decision-making body, announced it would legalize the trade of rhino and tiger parts sourced from farmed animals. These are animals bred solely for the purpose of being trophy hunted or killed for their body parts. The decision was met with a huge international outcry, after which the government put the plan on hold. It has not, however, officially rescinded the policy nor has it restored the permanent ban on the trade in rhino horns.

Rhinos face immense challenges to their survival today. All five rhino species are threatened with extinction, and there are fewer than 29,000 left in the wild in their natural habitats in Africa and Asia. Nations that are in a position to stop this decline, including the United States and China, need to take the lead and swiftly crack down on unnecessary activities like rhino trophy hunting, tighten any loopholes on imports of their body parts and prohibit domestic trade. We applaud the Chinese groups for speaking out and urging their government to end rhino trophy imports. Allowing this problem to continue could mean rhinos will be wiped out in our lifetimes, and that’s a scenario nobody wants.

Peaceful Parks mounts opposition to cormorant kills


SEPTEMBER 23, 2020

Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News

ONTARIO – The Peaceful Parks Coalition is coordinating opposition against
open season on double-crested cormorants declared by the provincial
government Sept. 15 through to the end of the year. Biologists have noted
that most cormorants will have departed for the south by the end of October.

After reading a column questioning the need for the hunt in Nation Valley
News, PPC’s Ana Valastro called from Toronto to say her group is building
resistance across the province. Valastro is looking for volunteers along the
St. Lawrence River to report hunts and cormorant kills.

There are affiliated groups in Kingston and in the Rideau Lakes keeping an
eye on the process, Valastro said. At one time, there was a volunteer
working out of Brockville but that’s no longer the case.

A native species automatically protected, that designation was removed to
permit hunters to bag up to 15 cormorants a day in a “fall harvest” as long
as they hold a valid license. They aren’t required to report their kills
only to properly dispose of inedible carcasses. which opponents claim won’t
always happen.

Valastro insisted cormorants have been much maligned as ugly nuisances that
eat too much fish – robbing them from human anglers – and whose droppings
destroy vegetation, some of the damage located within view of affluent

In fact, the birds are beautiful and graceful, Valastro stated. For the most
part, they eat non-game or commercial fish and cause limited damage to
vegetation. Opponents have called the open hunt “reckless”, a “disgusting
slaughter,” claiming cormorants have just reached a sustainable level after
near decimation over decades.

They maintain problem areas should be managed humanely on a documented
localized basis; and they point out that no useful data will be garnered
from the hunt because results aren’t being recorded.

The Big Rideau Lake branch of PPC has reported shots fired and cormorants
killed. The branch says there are only about 50 birds on the lake at the
moment, members of a small resident colony. One cottager complained that
cormorants are being unfairly vilified for everything from eating their
weight in fish daily to driving out the loons.

“If you know who these hunters are, educate them,” the Big Rideau branch
stated. “They’re not hurting our fish populations, nor are their numbers

PPC in Kingston reported the number of cormorants on five islands has
dropped from about 5,000 to 2,000 with the annual migration already
underway. A volunteer discovered one dead bird but no hunters on site,
possibly because winds make it precarious to approach the islands much of
the time.

Valastro said she had little information on cormorant numbers east of
Kingston and hopes to improve reporting from this area.

Update: Beavers Still in Danger in Steilacoom, Washington

City officials in Steilacoom, Washington, reportedly met on September 3 to discuss the ongoing concerns regarding beaver activity there. Apparently, experts instructed the city to improve its culvert system more than 20 years ago, and it evidently failed to do so. Now beavers are being affected: The city is reportedly attempting to trap them.

PETA has apprised the mayor and city council members of the cruelty and futility of this plan and has provided details regarding effective and humane beaver-control tips, but they apparently still won’t halt their alleged trapping initiative! Despite knowing that new beavers will simply move into the waterway, the city has apparently still chosen to stay stuck in a cycle of removing beavers rather than installing tried-and-true devices that alter the water flow to prevent flooding.

photo of beautiful beaver couple

Please politely urge Steilacoom officials to commit to using humane measures such as fence and pipe devices, which prevent beavers from damming culverts or encourage them to move elsewhere, or Clemson Leveler devices, which allow water to flow through an existing dam in such a way that beavers cannot detect. Dams can be notched to prevent flooding in the interim. Then forward this alert to everyone you know!


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Cattle ranchers block water access for rare Tule elk now dying of thirst

The world’s largest remaining herd of the native rare Tule elk are dying of thirst at the Point Reyes National Seashore after ranchers erected an eight-foot high fence separating the elk from leased dairy and meat farms. The National Park Service built the fences to appease cattle ranchers holding leases in the park.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there are 445 tule elk; a prime tourist attraction coming to admire the magnificent antlered animals. In 1978, a small herd of 30 tule elk had been reintroduced onto the land – a preserve surrounded by three miles of fencing. Five years ago, the herd was almost all wiped out because of a drought – this year looks to be the same.

On Sunday, In Defense of Animals (IDA), held a demonstration accompanied by ForElk, Tree Spirit Project and Rancho Compassion calling on the National Park Service to remove the fencing. So far, six elk have been found dead after dying of thirst.

“Thirsty elk are currently beset by drought, wildfire smoke, and a heatwave, and caged into the preserve by a fence, which prevents them from accessing alternative water sources. The NPSPS has sided with local ranchers and refuses to provide water for fenced-in elk. The Park has blocked In Defense of Animals and our partners from delivering water to the dying elk.”

Ranchers have 5,600 cows grazing and drinking water which greatly outnumber the elk, but refuse to let the elk share the drinking water, calling the area unsustainable to both the cows and the elk.

New Jersey prepares to open a gruesome black bear trophy hunt

September 22, 2020 3 Comments

New Jersey is poised to allow trophy hunters to kill the state’s beloved black bears starting next month using barbaric methods like baiting the animals with piles of rotting sugary food. The plan would also allow hunters to chase bears off state lands, where bear hunting is not allowed, and onto private lands, just so they can be killed. Worse, it would allow the killing of baby bear cubs—a cruelty now allowed in only one other state, Alaska.

This unethical policy from the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife is highly unpopular within the state, and a Humane Society of the United States poll last year showed that a supermajority of New Jersey residents oppose it. An even stronger majority is opposed to bear baiting. But unfortunately, attempts in the state legislature to prohibit baiting bears or bear trophy hunting have not been brought up for full floor votes.

We are now calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to fulfill his campaign promise to end this state-sanctioned cruelty by issuing an executive order to suspend the hunt. This is especially important this year in the midst of a pandemic. States surrounding New Jersey do not allow the controversial practice of bear baiting, so the state has become a haven for out-of-state trophy hunters looking to kill a bear using this unsporting practice. Exposing New Jersey residents to an influx of out-of-state visitors is simply not a smart idea—nor a safe one for its residents—at the present time.

A coalition of groups, including the HSUS, has presented the governor with other options. We have also submitted an administrative rule-making petition to the Department of Environmental Protection asking it to repeal the current rules permitting a bear hunting season and to update them with a truly comprehensive management policy.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife estimates the New Jersey bear population at about 5,000 individuals. While proponents of trophy hunting claim this is a large number, that is simply not true given the high rates of mortality among these animals. More than 2,000 bears have been killed by trophy hunters over just the past five years in New Jersey, and this number is in addition to the untold numbers of bears killed by poachers, vehicle strikes and orphaned cubs who die of starvation.

Bears are sentient and familial animals who spend prolonged periods raising and nurturing their cubs. They don’t need to be “managed” through trophy hunting—their populations self-regulate based on natural food availability and their own very slow reproductivity. Bears are also integral to the health and biodiversity of their forest ecosystem. These omnivores feed on berries, fruits and nuts, helping to disperse seeds through their feces. They also break logs while they’re grubbing for insects and other food, helping them decompose so nutrients can return to the soil.

On the other hand, science shows that practices like bear baiting can actually lead to conflicts with bears because the trophy hunters dump tons of human food in the woods as bait, unnaturally increasing bear densities in those areas. Moreover, bears who live close to urban and suburban areas, and are usually the ones said to be causing “conflicts,” are not the ones targeted by trophy hunters as these areas are off-limits to hunters.

Instead of offering its black bears for killing, New Jersey would do better to invest its resources into educating the public about how to effectively and humanely prevent conflicts from occurring in the first place, and enforcing trash management regulations. Commonsense steps like using bear-resistant trash cans, taking down bird feeders (especially in the summer and fall), and bringing pet food indoors are simple, efficient and easy steps that everyone can follow. Farmers can reduce conflicts by erecting electric fencing around lambing and calving pastures, bee hives, chicken coops and livestock feed.

Recently, we reported on Missouri’s plan to open its bear population to trophy hunters, and every summer we hear media reports about black bears killed simply after being spotted in neighborhoods. This is no way to treat these beloved American carnivores, and we will not stand for it. We are fighting attempts in Missouri to open a black bear hunt, and we will do everything in our power to stop this cruel hunt in New Jersey. Gov. Murphy has talked a lot about protecting black bears, and he signed an executive order in 2018 that banned bear hunting on state owned lands. But there is a lot more he can do to protect New Jersey’s black bears from trophy hunters, and we urge him to act decisively and urgently to do so.

Hunter Killed by Grizzly Bear in Alaska at Largest U.S. National Park

The attack was the first known bear mauling fatality at Wrangell-St. Elias since the park was established in 1980

By Rachel DeSantis

September 23, 2020 11:55 AM
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

A hunter was killed by a grizzly bear at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Sunday, the first known bear fatality in the country’s largest national park.

The hunter was with a friend on a 10-day moose hunt at the park, which is located in southeast Alaska, when the incident occurred near the Chisana River drainage, the National Park Service said in a news release.

The hunter’s identity is being withheld pending an investigation, and the cause of death and type of injuries sustained remain unclear.

The NPS said it was the first known bear mauling fatality at Wrangell-St. Elias since the park was established in 1980.

“Visitors are encouraged to be Bear Aware when traveling in the backcountry and take precautions such as carrying bear spray and using Bear Resistant Food Containers,” the release said.

Guidelines issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for staying safe around bears vary based on the situation, but hunters are advised to never approach a bear, and to remain calm and make yourself appear larger if you are approached. Running is also not advised, as it may elicit a chase response.

RELATED: ‘Predatory’ Black Bears Kill Two People Within Two Days in Alaska Wilderness


It’s known for its mountains, rivers and glaciers, and also contains one of the largest active volcanoes in North America.

The height of the bears in the park range from 4.5 feet to 6 or 7 feet tall, and they can measure up to 9 feet when standing. They weigh between 300 and 1,500 pounds, the NPS said.