Entries in #animals (13)

Tuesday
Feb212017

Exceptional Luck On Peter  Pan

As we cast off I remembered that I'd been rather spoilt on my first trip out and expected that this one would probably be rather less eventful. I really couldn't have been more wrong.

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Monday
Jul042016

Let The Summer Begin!

We are on the island of eternal spring. Ironically, we don't notice spring as a season, we only differentiate between winter and summer. And summer is the season based less on climate than on the three months of summer holidays which bring tourists from everywhere to the island. More tourists than usual, that is

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Monday
Apr182016

Conecta Con El Azul!

Phew – what a week! There were whales, dolphins, warm weather (you may laugh, it is always sunny, but it has been warmer than usual), meeting new organisations… and that was only the first half! After this, we had a big event on Friday – all around the sea!

When you sign up on Monday to participate in an event four days later, you need to brainstorm, focus, and prepare everything in record time. This is why we found ourselves late Thursday night creating making whale fin memory games and drawing sea animals on playing cards, writing instructions both in Spanish and English and making origami whales.

Conecta Con El Azul was set up by the Marina in Las Galletas as an event all around sea life and how to protect it. The programme said there were activities all throughout the day and talks and workshops in the evening, so we were asked to provide some activities for children. (Age? No idea. We didn’t know much about what to expect from the day.)

It was only during the morning briefing on the day of the event we finally found out there were school groups coming who would be given talks about marine animals and how to treat them respectfully and do activities and games all around the environment: from recycling Twister, to Environment Roulette, playing our games around whales, growing plants, making turtles out of recycled material… oh and of course seeing turtles being released into the sea! In the evening there would be talks, a bird watching walk and other activities for adults.

The main event was organised by the foundation rehabilitating turtles on the island. They had two sea turtles ready to release and we all watched as they made their way to the sea with hundreds of students and the odd tourist clapping and cheering whenever a wave came close enough to drag the turtle into the water.

At the end of the day it seemed almost every pupil who came had gotten a tattoo from Iva. Our stand was almost reduced to the face painting, except more arms were painted than faces. From dolphins to squids to orcas and sea monkeys – everyone got a marine animal (or two, or three!) to take home. Let’s just say it was quite a success!

By Claire Herbaux - Field Communications Officer

Are you interested in going on a trip to Tenerife to work on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation project? You can also take a look at our other marine conservation projects here.

Monday
Apr112016

Charismatic Cetaceans: Why We Love Whales And Dolphins - A Blessing And A Curse

Welcome to this four part series about cetaceans! Cetaceans include whales, dolphins and porpoise and their conservation is the main focus of our project here in Tenerife. But why do we humans love cetaceans so much? How do cetaceans interact with their environment? Why have cetaceans been given rights as non-human persons? Why do cetaceans need protecting? Find out everything in our four part Cetacean series!

Whales and dolphins are among a select group called ‘charismatic megafauna’. This means they are big animals with a cute smile - and humans simply love that! Ever wondered why the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) logo is a giant panda? Because it is a cute big fluffy animal with a smile! Okay, it is a little more complicated, but only just.

pixabay | mikakapturWe humans like things to look nice and be able to relate to them. Looks matter! It is not just about swiping left or right on Tinder. It has been scientifically proven we are hard-wired to respond positively to “cute” – big eyes, round heads, short snouts – and it translates directly into dollar bills (or the currency of your choice). Dolphins are the perfect example of “cute”. Their fixed smile give them a friendly and happy appearance and their anatomy is non-threatening; for example their pectoral fins and streamlined body are much like our arms and torso. Compare this to the image of a spider with eight crawling hairy legs and alien-like eyes. With the exception of some little boys’ obsession with creepy crawlies, people prefer dolphins over spiders.

Relatability matters! We long to travel the world barefoot and jump out of flying contraptions… but when it comes down to it, we are creatures of habit, enjoying familiar situations. We like animals to be similar to us and share intelligence, behaviours and social structures. The more similar, the more we identify with them, and the more we feel a moral duty of care to protect them. Dolphins are very intelligent social creatures with a curious nature. We relate to them when listening to their clicks and whistles, watching their playful behaviour such as jumping and playing, blowing bubbles or playing with objects.

flickr | Ania MendrekCetaceans check the boxes: good aesthetics and relatability and voilà, a charismatic megafauna with high economic value to humans. Whales were hunted for their meat, blubber and oil. As science developed it became apparent that these were intelligent social creatures and after the 1970s Save the Whale campaign they were seen as an environmental icon and “gentle giants” who roam the seas peacefully. The whale songs are even used as relaxing meditation music!

flickr | Ezra Freeloveflickr | Rennett StoweWhales and dolphins became part of pop-culture with Flipper in the 1960s and Free Willy in 1993. This new interest in cetaceans sparked a growth of marine parks and aquariums. Belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) with their unique white colour and their range of facial expressions, were first to be held in captivity. Nowadays, bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are the most common species in marine parks due to their intelligence, trainability, playfulness and friendly appearance as well as the striking killer whales (Orcinus orca). However, in captivity, cetaceans are lacking space and the resemblance to their wild habitat. In the United States the legal requirements for killer whale tank is 15 metres in diameter for two individuals, whereas in the wild an orca can travel up to 160 kilometres a day! As a result, cetaceans can have reduced life expectancies, high levels of stress and even psychosis. Note: If you haven’t yet, you need to watch the critically acclaimed 2013 documentary ‘Blackfish’ which shows the reality behind the tank-life.

It doesn’t take an expert to see that cetaceans are too big and intelligent to be suitable for life in a tank. In some countries dolphins have even received the status of non-human persons, giving them special rights, including it being morally unacceptable to keep them in captivity.

flickr | ใใ†ใ“Luckily, a cetacean’s value is not limited to ticket-sales at a marine park. As charismatic megafauna they easily capture public and media attention, and spark political interest, therefore being more likely to receive protection under the Endangered Species Act and funding for their conservation.

Often, they are an essential part of marine ecosystems as they have a high trophic level (meaning they are on top of the food chain) and can act as an indicator species: Their diet and habitat is supported by a high biodiversity; if this biodiversity declines, so does the quality of their habitat and quantity of their food, and eventually cetaceans. So they can tell us a lot about the state of an ecosystem and are of great ecological value!

Combined with their popularity, it makes them the perfect flagship species to raise awareness about other environmental features!

How? Well, because humans want to protect them, and by doing so they indirectly protect the underlying ecosystems and the small slimy ugly species also found in these ecosystems. No matter how interesting you try to make an image of a piece of seaweed look, it won’t be received as well as a dolphin. In fact, using a flagship species such is what non-governmental organisations (NGOs) use in order to get sponsorship, public awareness or media attention to support the conservation of less charismatic species and therefore biodiversity at large.

flickr | UnsplashSo next time you see a whale or dolphin take a moment to think about why we love them so much. Think about their smiles and about how it is both the curse of being held in captivity and a blessing because of the conservation efforts made!

By Lorain Drennan, Assistant Research Officer

Are you interested in going on a trip to Tenerife to work on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation project? You can also take a look at our other marine conservation projects here.

Tuesday
Mar082016

Meet Kimon! Our Assistant Research Officer

In time for a busy spring and summer period, our team grew last week as Kimon arrived, our new Assistant Research Officer. It has been a busy first week of getting the photo ID library up to date and generally getting to know the surroundings

What made you choose this project?

I wanted to learn more about doing cetacean research and develop my professional skills. During my time in Tenerife other than gaining knowledge directly related to project work, I would like to get to know the local culture and people better and make new friends.

Kimon in 3 words

“I am tired”

What is your favourite marine animal?

My favourite marine animal is the microzooplankton Oxyrrhis marina because it is greatly underappreciated especially considering its contribution to science as a model organism used in laboratories.

What is the favourite place you have been to?

My favourite place I have been to was Indonesia. I went there to do a research project on coral reefs. I loved it because of its natural beauty, the field research skills I got including scuba diving research and because I grew to really admire the local people and culture.

Which aspects of the project are you looking forward to most?

On this project I am mostly looking forward to working with species I have not encountered before since my previous experience working with cetaceans has been quite limited regarding the animals I have worked with.

What are you hoping to do after this internship?

After this internship I am hoping to continue doing cetacean research and hopefully use my newly acquired knowledge in my country, Greece, where cetacean research and conservation in general are quite limited.

How has your first week on the boats been?

My first week on the boat was nice. I encountered short-finned pilot whales which I had never seen before up-close.

Are you interested in going on a trip to Tenerife to work on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation project? You can also take a look at our other marine conservation projects here.

Tuesday
Jan192016

Photo-Identification In Cetaceans

It’s been a quiet week this week, so I’ve used the time to get on with the less glamorous side of scientific research – hours in front of the computer. It’s a necessary evil and one which I enjoy, in its own way, almost as much as the data collection in the field… almost.

I’ve been spending some time working on an aspect of research which is used the world over, and is one of the most powerful tools available to those studying cetaceans – photo-identification.

As with almost any animal, no two individuals will ever look exactly the same, there will be some unique feature which marks them apart from others and can be used for recognising that individual. The idea with photo-identification is to take a clear photograph of that feature in order for it to be recognised again in the future. In some species this will be easier to identify and photograph than others, and the biggest problem with cetaceans is that they spend the majority of their time underwater and out of sight. The fact that they are mammals comes to our aid though, they must return to the surface at least occasionally to breathe, so we can use this opportunity to photograph them.

Different body features are used in identifying different species. In the giant blue whale, the pattern of spots along the side of the body is used, in right whales it is the unique clusters of white markings, or ‘callosities’ on their head, and in humpback whales it is the distinctive black and white patterning on the underside of the tail flukes. Here in Tenerife we are focusing on the resident species of short-finned pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins, both of which are recognised by their dorsal fins. Each dorsal fin is a slightly different shape, but this alone is not distinctive enough. Over the course of their life an animal will acquire nicks, notches, and scratches on the fin which make each one as unique as our fingerprints.

One set of photographs of ten different pilot whales will not give you much information – other than that you saw ten different individuals. But hundreds of sets of photographs of pilot whales, taken over years of research, becomes an incredibly powerful research tool. Not only can you say how many different individuals you have ever seen, but you can also say how many times each individual has been seen, if they have ever been seen with a calf indicating they are female, if they are always seen with the same other individuals suggesting a social structure, what times of day or year they are seen showing patterns in behaviour, where they are seen indicating important locations… the list goes on and on.

It is still very early days in our photo-identification of the cetaceans here in Tenerife, but every data set has to start somewhere. Over the coming months and years the photographs you take as volunteers on this project will contribute to a catalogue of images which will be able to tell us a lot about these amazing animals.

By Bryony Manley - Assistant Research Officer

Are you interested in going on a trip to Tenerife to work on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation project? You can also take a look at our other marine conservation projects here.

Wednesday
Sep162015

My Memories Of Tenerife 

I am Qi Wang and I come from China.I am an exchange student in Germany now. I went on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Tenerife Project from 6.Sep 2015 to 13.Sep.

On the day before I came to Tenerife I got a heavy fever and cold, very uncomfortable. And that was the time I really missed my family in China and wanted to go back as soon as possible even if I had planned well two-week travel to Italy and Spain after the project. I did not know what I should do.

On 6th.Sep, the day I took part in the project I disliked Europe when I knew no medicine store was open because it was Sunday. I thought I was so stupid to torment myself as my ears ached seriously and could not hear anything. But at the moment when I saw the unimaginable scene through the window of plane and the man sitting on my left smiled to me friendly with his thumb up and the grandma sitting on my right was so warm-hearted she asked for some medicine for me, I loved Europe again and told myself; please try two days first and then decide:-) Hold on! You will never know what would happen in the next minute and you will miss many nice things if you do not try. I think it was one of the best decisions I have made:)

I ate a very delicious muffin at airport. Xiana picked me up and took me to the home. With three levels, there are four rooms in the house. After Tracy guided me, showed me the house and introduced me to the other volunteers, the only thing I wanted to do was to sleep. 

At 8pm the dinner began. Simple home-made food by volunteers, which was very tasty. Two girls (Tracy and Elli) were always talking and laughing, others were listening and chatting. The atmosphere was very good, however, I did not understand British English and Spanish English very well. I was just sitting there with few words. I regretted I did not study English well enough:( But I began to like the place and these interesting people who were all friendly and always smiled at me. After the dinner, Xiana told us something more about the project and then let us play games and introduce ourselves. To be honest, I could only understand 1/3 what she said and always guessed and guessed, totally like a fool. And I could not understand others either but only knew they were happy :) That's enough maybe.

The next day was Monday. Tracy taught us something about Frontier and the marine animals. It was the first time I thought I was a bad student, the worst one. I could not integrate with them well and I sometimes could not help crying :( I told my friends how unhappy I was although it was really unique experience which I wanted to cherish. However, at the same time I indeed enjoyed it. It was a quite strange feeling. On that afternoon we went to beach.

We went on boat three times a week and I saw pilot whales and a dolphin.

I enjoyed the time people chatting at the table although I did not take part in it well due to my poor English. But it was true that I was willing to watch them laughing:) I like the atmosphere that each volunteer was so nice, active and positive. It maybe usual for European people to hear others say "Are you ok" "morning!" and something else polite and warm. But to me, it happens not so often. Thus, every time these nice friends sent their regards to me I was moved. I like here and these people increasingly. My favorite period was the fielding part after the dinner. I like the questions Xiana or Tracy asked us: Something about the interactions; Did you help; Did you talk to visitors. Then we shared our experiences. It seems we are a family:)

On 9.Sep I went on boat with Tracy and Elli. Pilot whales appeared but several minutes later they dived and did not swam up any longer. I was taking pictures at that time and did not know what happened, just feeling it was a pity that they left in such short time. When we went back home, Tracy and Elli told others the thing and then I knew it was because several illegal ships were hitting against the whales. I felt shamed about my foolish thought. Xiana was very angry with these ships' behavior. She was so boiled to express her anger with the non-behavior of Spanish government and then asked for suggestion from the volunteers. They talked ardently and I really hoped to understand them totally but I failed. However the situation shocked me heavily. People in my country lack environmental consciousness seriously and we need true education about our earth. We also lack and need environmentalists and volunteers to raise our sense and work for our environment .I really admired Xiana and these volunteers. That night, I was insomnic and thought about many things.

Volunteers made dinner in turn and I enjoyed the food. I appreciate getting the chance to taste home-made English food :)

We were asked to do something for the project. I translated the introduction about six kinds of whales and dolphins into Chinese. I was happy to know that Xiana likes it.

On the other two days, we went to Siam park and national park. It was also good experience:)

Now I was in the plane leaving Tenerife with so many valuable and nice memory. Thank you all for everything.

Qi Wang – Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!

Thursday
Aug272015

The Wildlife, The Friends, The Dream

Arriving at Tenerife Airport I didn't have a clue what to expect I had no idea what the house would be like or how many people there would be, all I knew was that I was going to see some fantastic wildlife and make some fab memories.

I arrived with two of my university friends and we got picked up from the airport by Xiana and we were really excited to finally be here, months of planning and waiting were finally over. The house is fab and way better than the hostel I had in my head, it's new and clean and has a fab pool, just what you need when its really hot. The house has a great system and everything runs smoothly with cooking, cleaning, health and safety briefings etc. Everone is really helpful, enthusiastic about conservation, and super chatty so it's great when you're a newbie.

Day to day the project varies, the aim is to get everyone on a boat 3 times a week but because we go out on tourist boats and they can be busy it's not always possible, but that's the just the way it is with conservation, it is a hit and miss thing to do and it's just a case of fingers crossed and hope for the best, but you just have to remember that everytime you're out there and collecting data you're making a difference.

Once you're on the boat you can just have a great time and enjoy it, you just have to remember that you're a representative of frontier, so politeness and good behaviour is expected, make sure you're speaking to tourists about the wildlife you're seeing and engage people so that they have a great time and you do too. Once you have an encounter with the Whales or Dolphins you have to make sure you take loads of pictures and get in some profie fin shots as you'll need these to ID the whales once you're back at the house.

I love going out on the boats its such a brilliant place to be and you can get really close to the Whales, they're so beautiful and it's just great to see these animals in their naturual environment and not on a documentary!

Once you're back at the house after the bus journey you can pretty much do what you like, there always data to be input and photos to download, there's the pool and you can always pop into San Blas if you like. Theres a briefing at the end of every day and cooking to be done but it's all very relaxed, and once you've finished dinner you can do what you like, we've had a quiz night, documentary evening watching Blue Planet and we've all been out to dinner and just generally had a great time!

I've only been here for a week and it sucks that I can't stay longer, the people are lovely, the wildlife is amazing and the weather is wayyy better than England! I hope that everyone has a great experience with Frontier in Tenerife and that you get some great snaps and make some new lifelong friends. :D

By Coral - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!

Thursday
Aug202015

A Change In My Career Path 

From the moment I stepped out of the airport on my very first day in Tenerife I knew I was going to have an amazing time. I had always loved dolphins and so I knew that this project would be perfect for me!

I had originally wanted to study forensic science at university and I never even imagined that this project would potentially change my entire career path, as I am now looking at studying zoology at university. From my first day on the project until my last day five weeks later Xiana was always there to help. Going on the boats everyday would not be possible without Xiana’s amazing work and the captain’s talk that I got to experience my first week will be something I will never forget. The best part of my trip was definitely going on the boats every day. Getting to see some of the beautiful marine mammals; pilot whales, many species of dolphins and turtles was just one of the best parts. Being able to spend such a long time on this magnificent island will be an experience that is never forgotten. This was my third time travelling alone and it tops off all the previous trips! Being able to scuba dive and snorkel with the turtles was an unforgettable experience and I recommend everyone does it!

As you begin to meet all the people on project for the first time the nerves you originally had begun to fade and you see that everyone else is there for the same reason. The first Sunday night briefing is always daunting with the ice breakers but soon it becomes one of the funniest parts of the week. Watching everyone cook is always funny, and sometimes like me you will never cook often. (I can take that as a hint Xiana that I’m a bad cook!) Or you can end up with amazing cooks and the food is delicious!

Even back at the house we still had fun, playing in the pool, movie nights and the nights out of course. The pool was always a welcomed sight after a long day on the boats in the heat, whether it be playing with Rodrigo our inflatable Orca or doing our pilot whale impressions! As a group we all went to the monkey park, snorkelling with the turtles and to Siam Park. We also went to a Spanish Festival in Los Abrigos which is a night to never forget. Both the atmosphere and the music were incredible.

During my five weeks on the project I will never forget the first time I saw my first dolphin (Atlantic spotted dolphin) and the fact that I squealed like a child for the entire interaction! Throughout my time here I was able to see pilot whales, atlantic spotted dolphins, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and turtles. My last boat trip was on the Eden and I was able to catch some remarkable underwater footage of a Pilot Whale and even though I got soaked lying on the floor of the boat it was totally worth it! After several attempts of previous underwater footage this was definitely the best video. Whilst we were on boats we would record their behaviour, take pictures of their fins for identification and take note of the GPS. On some of the boats you would be able to jump in which was always great because of the heat. The crew were always lovely and always made everyone feel at home.

There is such a friendly atmosphere on this project and you will truly meet some amazing people. I have made an incredible group of friends and it made the experience even more memorable. I have gained some valuable experience on this project, not only about the whales and the dolphins but life experience that will stay with me. I will never forget my time here and if you ever get a chance I recommend doing this project. I will always miss the late night talks and the notable experiences in Las Americas! I will take away from this project the friendships I’ve made and the knowledge from my experience here.

By Alexandra Earl - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!

Friday
Aug142015

Completely Surpassing My Expectations

My expectations of Tenerife were of sun, volcanoes and British tourists but these were most definitely surpassed during my 3 weeks on the project as I discovered the beautiful variety offered by the island.

My late arriving flight meant that upon arrival at the volunteer house (which by the way has an awesome pool perfect for inflatable orcas and amazing views of Mt Teide and the arid landscape of the South) I was met by all of the other volunteers who had already arrived and went immediately to the nearby town for sangria- a perfect way to get to know everyone and I felt at home straight away. After just one week I was already referring to the volunteer house as home!

By far the most incredible parts of the project for me as a biology undergraduate were spent on the boats in the Canarian waters. It’s not possible to properly describe the feeling of seeing pilot whales or bottlenose dolphins for the first time- I think the words breath-taking and beautiful and the fact that I had goose bumps despite it being over 30 degrees pretty much sum up the experience. On whale watching trips in the past, all that I had glimpsed was a lone whale in the far distance, a blast of water or the flash of a tail, yet here in Tenerife every boat trip yielded multiple sightings of whales or dolphins or both at the same time and a few turtles if you were lucky. And these were not just individuals but whole pods of whales which could be up to 20 individuals in number including calves. I could have watched them for hours on end (tip - wear sunglasses as sunburnt eyes are not the most attractive thing to see). Short-finned pilot whales are resident around the Canary Islands and so one of the main aims of the project is to gather data on the different family groups present and the individuals that make up these groups, identified by the unique notches and scratches on their dorsal fins, a little like human fingerprints. Photographing the fins at the correct angle proved challenging but very enjoyable- scurrying all over the boat to get the best shot- although lying on the floor to take a photo between two tourists may have been a little too far (but hey, I was enjoying myself).

The location of the project and of the boat trips was perfect- we were able to lie on the beach enjoying one the world’s best smoothies whilst waiting for the boat or see the magnificent cliffs of Los Gigantes from the ocean. On some of the longer trips, the boats would stop and everyone would jump into the ocean and you’d look around you at the blueness of the water and the sky and spot the mountains in the horizon and just wish you could freeze the moment.

Other than the boat trips and data collection, the daily life of a volunteer would include data input, personal projects, cleaning and cooking (the food was delicious) and of course the all-important sunbathing by the pool. Weekends were spent exploring the island with the other volunteers and immersing yourself in the vibrant culture of Tenerife. An excursion to Mt Teide National Park was a highlight with scenery like you have never seen before- lava flows, strange rock formations creating ‘el paisaje lunar’ (lunar landscape), cacti and lizards everywhere you looked, followed by swimming in a natural pool created by the lava flows with an underground cave section. Other trips included a day to Siam Park (best waterpark ever) and snorkelling with loggerhead turtles which came so close you could touch them. I think I’m running out of superlatives to describe my experience. So to sum up, if you are thinking about joining this project, do it. You will meet amazing people and gain a multitude of experiences and memories and want to do it all over again.

By Elizabeth Heard - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's Whale & Dolphin Conservation Project in Tenerife.

Check out what volunteers in Tenerife are up to right now!