Entries in #animals (17)


Turtles vs.  Plastic

It is no secret that discarded/unwanted plastic finding its way into the oceans is an on-going threat to the marine environment. Many marine animals (including birds) are accidentally or even mistakenly ingesting these inedible plastics every day.

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The  Shearwater

Although Frontier Tenerife has a primary aim of studying and highlighting the impact of human activities on native Whale and Dolphin species, did you know that there are other species living on the island that can also be effected by mankind?

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Meet The Pilot  Whales

The short finned pilot whale, also known to scientists as Globicephala macrorhynchus, is one of the four resident species around Tenerife Island, along with the sperm whale, the bottlenose dolphins and Risso’s dolphins.

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The Two Species Of Pilot  Whale

The latest blog from Tenerife looks at the only two known species of Pilot Whale; Short-finned and Long-finned.

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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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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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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.


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.


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.


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.