Welcome to the seventh in a new series of Animal Tales from the Bermuda S.P.C.A., which have kindly been sponsored by our good friends at Noah’s Ark.
An estimated 13 million people in over 120 countries go whale watching every year, and this of course includes a small smattering of people in Bermuda.
According to the International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW), the whale watching industry is worth in excess of two billion dollars a year.
It’s the very size of the industry, which is giving the Welfare group major cause for concern.
How for example, can you control badly managed whale watching trips, and equally importantly, does it harm the whales?
Such organized boat trips around the globe can interfere with the whales natural behaviour, including their basic needs to feed, rest and take care of their young. And this, say marine biologists, can cause problems both in the short and long term.
Over the long term this could even cause females to stop producing enough milk for their calves, which could ultimately endanger their survival rate.
The IFAW’s concerns are shared by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), who rightly point out that whale watching is an industry, and like all industries, the primary objective is to make money.
Some countries, say the WDCS, have specific legislation, which manages their whale watching industry — such as the number of boats permitted and how many daily trips they can make — whilst others have no legislation whatsoever, and where it’s a free for all.
Badly run trips can cause all sorts of problems for the whales, including collisions with boats, which endanger human life.
And as one spokesperson said: “There is no such thing as a typical trip.”
The industry can also be a boon for communities which are facing hardships in the current recession, or who have seen their fishing stocks dwindle.
As one expert said, it’s all about striking the right balance.
No ghostly apparition
A woman living in the Lake District of northern England returned home recently to find a near perfect imprint of an owl — complete with eyes, beak and feathers — on her living room window.
She quickly searched around outside, but could find no trace of the bird, and so she called in a bird expert to explain the imprint.
The authority said that the white silhouette was left behind by the bird’s ‘powder down’, a substance that protects its growing feathers.
Due to the exceptional clarity and detail of the imprint, a member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) was able to identify the species as a tawny owl.
The fact that there was no trace of the bird suggested that the owl had undoubtedly received a nasty shock (and perhaps a headache), but no major injuries.
A RSPB spokesperson went on to say that birds often collide with windows in the late spring, or they try to attack them, and sadly, she added, some of them do not survive.
Lucky’s double rescue
At just five months of age, Lucky the brown bear cub has already lived through an amazing childhood.
He was believed to have been abandoned by his mother at three months, before wandering into the yard of the Logar family, who reside in a village in northern Slovenia.
The Logars cared for the little fella and he quickly bonded with them, especially their pet Rottweiler.
Before too long movie footage of his playful antics appeared on the local TV news — notably the bear hugs that he kept giving the dog — and he quickly built up a following.
Despite the Logars desire to keep Lucky and to build him a special enclosure on their property, they were persuaded by authorities that their fast growing bear cub would soon evolve into an extremely large, powerful, unpredictable and dangerous animal.
Reluctantly they agreed to hand him over to Four Paws, an animal welfare charity.
The night before the hand-over, however, someone broke into Lucky’s enclosure and stole the cute cub.
The local police were called in and the animal charity swiftly offered a reward for his safereturn.
Whatever the real reason, a few days afterwards a youth came forward who claimed to have found Lucky ‘wandering alone’ (the investigation continues).
The cub was duly handed over to Four Paws and is now getting accustomed to his new home (a bear sanctuary in Romania), where experts will look after him.
The eventual plan is to release him back into the wilds of Slovenia when the time is right.
Stay tuned for the further adventures of Lucky!