Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Georgia Aquarium's Dolphin Tales and SeaWorld's One Ocean

I've always been excited about seeing dolphins finally make their way to the Georgia Aquarium ever since they announced the expansion back in 2008. From what the video shows, it seems to be a pretty large exhibit. I have a bit of a gripe with the place though... they said that this wasn't going to be a 'SeaWorld' show... what? They mean like Believe or Blue Horizons? Because that's sorta what it looks like from the video... I thought they meant the show was going to be more educational and not have much of a 'story' behind it. Speaking of SeaWorld... they just announced a new show this month:

I suppose it's because of the backlash with the congressional hearing they had last year, questioning the educational value of their shows... but then... One Ocean doesn't seem that different to me... maybe it's just the fountains and special wetsuits that bother me, it makes it seem like a big production.

I don't know... for some reason, these shows really bother me... I want the Shamu Adventure show back, at least that didn't seem as cheesy and fake as Believe is. If marine parks and aquariums really want to have shows like this, I wouldn't make it a regular thing, I'd rather see it as something seasonal, like the summer shows at SeaWorld. I'll withhold my official opinion on both shows for now though, since I haven't actually seen them.

Oh yeah, one more thing... why are they charging separately/extra to see the dolphin show at the Georgia Aquarium? That probably bothers me the most... though other aquariums have done it as well, like the Brookfield Zoo and National Aquarium in Baltimore. I still think it's pretty ridiculous to charge separately.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Problem with The Cove

As many people know, The Cove is a documentary about the dolphin slaughter that takes place in Taiji, Japan. And as many people will tell you after seeing this film, with no previous knowledge about dolphins in captivity, they will tell you that aquariums in America and most of Europe are linked to this dolphin slaughter. There is a large problem with that though: It's not true. Don't get me wrong, what happens in Taiji and in other parts of Japan with cetaceans of all kinds is just horrific, but they are not linked to the western world of marine parks and aquariums... well, they haven't been in over 20 years that is. Admittedly, there were some rash decisions made by dolphinariums back in the 80's, as this video explains:

That video really reminds me of when I became interested in cetaceans due to SeaWorld, as Stewart Clark explains, it's that first visit or close-up encounter with a live animal that hooks you for life. But... last year, SeaWorld had some pretty bad publicity, with the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau due to an accident with Tilikum and there were the deaths of four orcas, Taima (and her stillborn), Sumar and Kalina. All of this bad publicity fed the activist Ric O'Barry and others with ammunition to try and criminalize marine parks and aquariums for keeping cetaceans. Captivity in itself is a very complicated issue, whether we're talking about a cetacean or some other animal, it really depends on the individual and where they came from, and I'll touch on that in a later, more in-depth article. As it stands, Ric O'Barry blindly assumes that marine parks and aquariums in the western world get their dolphins from the slaughter, but these two videos I have embedded below investigates the facts of the matter.

Videos originally posted here:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Close Encounters - In The Wild: Common Dolphins

Every time I have been dolphin-watching in California, I have always seen common dolphins, and they're such a joy to watch. In these two videos, I was going on a watch with my two friends in California, and for the first three quarters of the trip, we had not seen any dolphins, but we did see a gray whale in the harbor. Seeing the whale was quite nice, but the dolphins were something I was longing to see again. The whale/dolphin-watching excursion called Capt. Dave's Dolphin Safari is a favorite of mine since they always seem to manage finding cetaceans on every trip. The new boat they use has special design that allowed people to see the dolphins underwater, and I was very excited to see them in that way.

Friday, February 4, 2011

DRU - Dolphin Robotic Unit

That is the DRU (Dolphin Robotic Unit) and I mentioned in my preview earlier this week that I would talk about the implications it has for research. Unfortunately, I'm drawing a bit of a blank right now, but my the first question that popped into my head was, "How would wild dolphins react to something like this?" It's movements are incredibly accurate, though not quite as fast as a real dolphin. I think there needs to be more tests to see how dolphins react to it without a barrier... I mean... I know they must be afraid that the dolphins might try tearing it apart if they find it too threatening, but from what I've seen in the video, they seem more curious than afraid. Though, that's with captive dolphins, wild dolphins may have a completely different outcome.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Close Encounters - In Aquariums: Kasatka, Kalia, and Nakai

It was almost scary interacting with Kasatka for the first time, since she's the matriarch of the pod there. She seemed very interested in my photo book and seemed to like seeing pictures of her daughter, Kalia, who was right under her when I was showing it. At the point when she moves away, I was showing a picture of Corky, and I'm not sure, but I think she was uninterested in that. Her son, Nakai, then comes back (he was very interactive before right before the video was taken) to interact with my friends and I for a few moments, followed by Kasatka and Kalia.

In this video, I was able to interact with Kasatka a bit more, but I only caught the tail-end of the interaction. Then Kalia comes in for a few photos. Kasatka comes by one last time at the end of the video and says hi, (not really, but it looks like it).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


This is a bit off-topic, but not really, since I did mention that I would talk about robotics in this blog. I just got so excited about this, that I had to mention it!

The Keepon robot, that a lot of robot fanatics were anxious to see when it would finally be able to purchase, is finally going to release in retail form! And for just $40! Though, it is just a toy version of it, but it will still hopefully have some of the functionality of the research model (priced at whopping $30,000).

To explain a bit about what the Keepon does exactly, here's is the page explaining it. (I know, I went the lazy route of linking you to another page.) But, for your entertainment, here's a music video featuring the Keepon robot: