Dolphin_2They’re labeled the smartest mammals on Earth that aren’t human, and at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi, Kelly the Dolphin is earning her reputation. In fact, it could very well be that she has now got the upper hand on her human trainers… or pets?
All the Dolphins at the center are trained to retrieve trash that has mistakenly fallen in to their pools. Upon seeing a nearby trainer, they are to take said trash to the trainer. In return, they receive a fish for their cleanliness.
However it seems that Kelly has found a loophole in the system, and is exploiting it to interesting ends. She hoards her trash, underneath a rock at the bottom of her pool, and when she sees a trainer she goes down and removes a piece of paper or trash to get her fish. However she won’t use all her paper at once, instead she holds on to them for the future. It is an interesting behavior, considering that it is very much like humans storing food for the winter; it displays an awareness of tomorrow.
Dolphins have long been observed to take great care and exhibit much intelligence in their day to day lives. Scientists have observed a dolphin using the spiny body of a dead scorpion fish to extricate a moray eel out of a crevice.
Comparatively, in Australia, Dolphins have been witnessed to place sea-sponges over their snouts as they star poking around in the surrounding area. This protection helps them from being stung by stonefish and stingrays.
But it isn’t just these behaviors that seem to prove their intelligence, but also the commonalities with humans in the way that they play and learn.
Younger dolphin calves will most likely learn new things in an attempt to keep up with those around them, rather than learn directly from their mothers. From balancing kelp on their tail to swimming through bubble rings, it seems an effort to match their peers is what drives them on.
And just as young children are always trying to match those around them, so they want to enjoy the activity rather than just the outcome. It isn’t always a case of the means justifying the ends. The same goes for dolphins, who seem to beef up the level of difficulty of the games they create for themselves.
It is their ability to understand sentences of sign language that astound though, with a sentence like “touch the frisbee with your tail and then jump over it” returning just that from the dolphin. This proves more than just rigorous training is the answer, but an understanding of what we are asking of them.
So next time you’re in the water with the dolphins, as I hope to be one day, make sure you tip your hat to them. It may very well be that the Simpsons got it right again that we might be facing an invasion from Dolphins any day now.
4-year-old wins his own island
Friday, March 6, 2009
A 4-year-old boy has won the use of an uninhabited tropical island, with white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters, in a Taiwan lottery aimed at boosting spending during an economic downturn.
Officials said Yeh Chien-wei, who won the prize at Thursday's draw, will get exclusive rights to the tiny plot in the Taiwan Strait from May through September.
Dubai to provide cricket's new oasis
In the wake of the Lahore terror attacks, teams are set to shun the subcontinent to play in the Gulf states
Dubai Sports City
The new 25,000-capacity stadium at Dubai Sports City. Photograph: WMC/Public Domain
A week tomorrow David Morgan, president of the International Cricket Council, will host a telephone conference between the member boards of the sport's world governing body to discuss the ramifications of the terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team in Lahore last week.
It will be the first of many conversations that might – some say will – lead to a seismic shift in the landscape of world cricket. Until now the main considerations in organising Test series and other international cricket fixtures have been commercial and, with the power base moving east, political. Now, at least as far as the players are concerned, there is only one consideration: safety. The point was made last night by Kevin Pietersen, who said he might not go to India for the Twenty20 Indian Premier League due to start next month.
"If I don't think it's right then I'll not be going," he said. "I'll be speaking to Bangalore, to the ECB, to my agent, and to security advisers."
The main losers are Pakistan, but the other three Test-playing countries on the subcontinent – India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – also have much at stake. Standing by to profit are Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and, above all, Dubai, home of the ICC's headquarters. The Gulf states could become a new home for cricket.
Cricket is of immeasurable cultural importance throughout the subcontinent and, as the gunmen in Lahore showed, the sport is an easy target for terrorists. Those who represent professional cricketers around the world have told the Observer that players, with Pietersen prominent among them, are harbouring serious reservations about travelling not only to Pakistan, but to the entire region. All forms of the international game may be forced to move.
The Gulf region is close enough, being a couple of hours by air from parts of India and Pakistan. Nearly half of those living in the Gulf states are of Pakistani, Indian or Bangladeshi origin, so the audience is there. So are the pitches, stadiums and facilities, most notably at Dubai's billion-pound Sports City complex – where Australia play Pakistan next month – and Abu Dhabi's new state-of-the-art cricket centre. The climate is favourable, too, with play possible for seven months of the year. English county sides have not been slow to take advantage: six will head east later this month to step up their pre-season preparations at the Pro Arch Trophy, staged at venues in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
There has also been talk of English grounds staging "neutral" Tests, for example between Pakistan and Australia, while England are playing home series. A further potential shift in the landscape has been identified here, with the traditional format of Test series between two nations being challenged. If Pakistan and Australia were here while England were playing South Africa, say, why not stage a four-team Test contest?
"Why not? You've got to be open-minded," says Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers' Association, the players' union for domestic cricket. Morris told Observer Sport that he had proposed a change to the England and Wales Cricket Board in January, suggesting the introduction of triangular series in future. That was before the Lahore attack and now Morris would not rule out a quadrangular Test competition that would suit the short English summer even more, and would also be a viable option in the Gulf.
"The problem is the Future Tours Programme," he says of the Test-playing fixture list that the ICC's member boards agree for years in advance. The current FTP runs until 2012, with 22 Test and one-day series due to be played in the subcontinent by then. England are next due there against Pakistan (2010) and Bangladesh (2012). According to the players' representatives, all those series are under threat – certainly Pakistan's games will be moved – as well as the 2011 World Cup, originally due to be co-hosted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and the forthcoming IPL Twenty20 competition.
"It's quite tricky to get the availability of the teams," Morris says. "But there is no reason why a quadrangular series wouldn't work – after all, the [proposed] Stanford series here this summer involved four nations." By coincidence, 2012 is the centenary of the previous Test series with more than two teams, when England hosted Australia and South Africa.
The thinking is that a quadrangular Test series would tap into the large immigrant and expatriate population on these shores. That would also be the case in the Gulf. And with player safety now the prime objective – "playing in the subcontinent will certainly be guided by security experts," confirmed Tim May, head of the worldwide cricketers' union, Fica – it would allow a greater concentration of international cricket to be played in a secure location.
Pakistan will stage no international cricket for the foreseeable future. "Obviously the landscape has changed. We will clearly not be sending cricketers to Pakistan until a significant change occurs there," Morgan says. "The priority of the ICC is to find ways of providing international cricket away from Pakistan on neutral territory."
Asked about the future of international cricket elsewhere in the region, Morgan denied there was any likelihood of moving games. "To extend that [relocating] to all of the subcontinent would be a mistake," he says.
Because of the delicate political sensitivities in cricket, though, he has no option but to say that. The game is effectively ruled from India, and the ICC president will not want to upset the Indians. Here, though, is a starker view, painted by one of Morgan's colleagues, who did not wish to be named, who has been involved in all the major discussions within the ICC.
"Two weeks ago there was an army mutiny in Bangladesh. After the Mumbai bombings, before Christmas in India, Pakistan cricketers are not allowed to play in the IPL. Also, remember that that competition had a big bomb attack during it last year in Jaipur. Colombo [the Sri Lankan capital] can be as bad as Pakistan. And never mind last week's attack on the Sri Lankan players, it should be remembered that Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was killed less than 18 months ago."
The insider also confirmed that debate had long been underway within the ICC about all forms of the international game being played in the Gulf. Why else would the sheikhs be investing so much money in cricket grounds?
"There will be three state-of-the-art cricket grounds at Sports City in Dubai, where Australian, Pakistani and English soil has already been imported for use," he says. "Abu Dhabi is ready right now. Don't think these conversations are only just starting. For the past two years the ICC have been thinking of expanding the game. The Middle East also has plenty of money – think of the recent Asian Games in Doha, where the facilities were built very quickly. There are contingency plans in place."
How realistic is the prospect of all forms of the international game being played in the Gulf region? "Why not? That's what we are have built these facilities for," says U Balasubramaniam, chief executive of Dubai's Sports City, whose director of sports business, Malcolm Thorpe, confirmed: "We've had conversations with every board of the Test playing nations."
Could the subcontinent nations play cricket in Abu Dhabi, which hosts Australia and Pakistan in a one-day series next month? "We're not here to exploit anyone's misfortune. But as far as we're concerned we'd say we have two excellent world-class venues. We're here for the cricket," says Dilwar Mani, president of the Abu Dhabi Cricket Association and brother of Ehsan Mani, a former ICC president.
"The facilities [in Abu Dhabi] are absolutely first class," says Morris, a view echoed by the ECB's chairman, Giles Clarke, who says: "Abu Dhabi and Dubai are perfectly viable options."
Thorpe describes what Sports City had on offer, thanks to huge investment by the Dubai royal family.
"Pakistan play Australia next month in the 25,000-seat stadium. The ICC Global Cricket Academy has Rod Marsh as its head, who is supported by Dayle Hadlee, brother of Sir Richard, and Mudassar Nazar. The academy has two ovals, indoor and outdoor nets, and a mix of different soils from England, Australia and Pakistan – the wicket for the stadium is from Pakistan. And the ICC's new offices, which open soon, are next door.
"The complex also has the Ernie Els golf club, a 15,000-seat multi-indoor arena similar to the O2, a 60,000-capacity facility for football, rugby and athletics, a field hockey stadium and a whole range of academies, including the Butch Harmon golf and Manchester United soccer schools." Sports City ranges over five square kilometres and, being purpose-built, gated and in a country with no history of terrorism, is very safe. "There will be a population of anything up to 60,000 living and working there. We are building a community around sport."
Investment in sport in the Gulf region has reached mind-boggling levels. Since the Dubai World Cup race meeting began in 1996, prize money has risen from $5m to more than $20m. Sports City has a fund of $4bn – Manchester United alone were paid $50m to locate a soccer school there – while in Qatar the cost of the Aspire football academy was $1.3bn. The European golf tour now stages more events in the Gulf than in England, and the season is built around the "Race to Dubai", venue for the season finale.
Morgan was careful to state that it would be "a mistake to think that the world outside the subcontinent is safe. I have a very clear visual memory of Australia being here in 2005 while I was at a one-day international in Leeds and bombs were going off in London.
"It is a good thing that England and India continued," he added of the series interrupted by the Mumbai attacks in which more than 170 people died.
But Morris, while also pointing to that positive experience, had reservations. "I can't paint the entire subcontinent under one brush. But today everyone is asking questions about playing in that region, full stop. Decisions should no longer be made on a political or commercial basis. Players make their choices based on safety." And the IPL? "People are asking pretty big questions over that. You need experts to do their reviews of safety. You have to be tapped into the advice each day."
The IPL's commissioner, Lalit Modi, is praying he can call in enough favours to persuade the Indian government to provide the level of security needed during a time when the potentially volatile national elections are taking place.
Andrew Flintoff, Pietersen, Morris and the wider cricket community will be dismayed to know that the IPL have so far refused two requests from Fica for a detailed plan of their security arrangements. The requests were made, before the Lahore atrocities, by Tim May, who says: "We recently conducted a survey of all the players who took part in the 2008 IPL and 83% said they wished to have an independent review. There have been significant incidents, including the Jaipur bombing [which nearly caused the match between Rajasthan Royals and the Bangalore Royal Challengers to be postponed]. Players have raised concerns about playing in those areas."
Those concerns could lead to some of the biggest changes to the cricket calendar since Test matches began.
Khaleej Times Online
Stray Dog Kills a Dolphin Stranded on Karachi Beach
KARACHI - A stray dog killed a dolphin while two others died of dehyderation after over two dozens were washed ashore on Gadani beach, 70km from here, on Friday.
The residents, mostly fishermen and labourers, said they were surprised to find more than 25 dolphins along the beach, a popular picnic spot for Karachiites and people from other parts of the country.
They said they didn’t know why the dolphins had been washed ashore and in such large number.
While most of the dolphins were pushed back into the sea, a stray dog killed one of them.
Two others were found dead on the beach front.
Despite the news of dolphins coming ashore being reported in the media, officials assigned to protect wild life were found nowhere during the past two days. A rare breed of blind dolphin is found in the River Indus. But the ones that came ashore on Gadani beach were certainly a different breed.
Study: Belligerent chimp proves animals make plans
Mar 9, 3:45 PM (ET)
By MALIN RISING
STOCKHOLM (AP) - A canny chimpanzee who calmly collected a stash of rocks and then hurled them at zoo visitors in fits of rage has confirmed that apes can plan ahead just like humans, a Swedish study said Monday. Santino the chimpanzee's anti-social behavior stunned both visitors and keepers at the Furuvik Zoo but fascinated researchers because it was so carefully prepared.
According to a report in the journal Current Biology, the 31-year-old alpha male started building his weapons cache in the morning before the zoo opened, collecting rocks and knocking out disks from concrete boulders inside his enclosure. He waited until around midday before he unleashed a "hailstorm" of rocks against visitors, the study said.
"These observations convincingly show that our fellow apes do consider the future in a very complex way," said the author of the report, Lund University Ph.D. student Mathias Osvath. "It implies that they have a highly developed consciousness, including lifelike mental simulations of potential events."
Osvath's findings were based on his own observations of Santino and interviews with three senior caretakers who had followed the chimpanzee's behavior for 10 years at the zoo in Furuvik, about 93 miles (150 kilometers) north of Stockholm.
Seemingly at ease with his position as leader of the group, Santino didn't attack the other chimpanzees, Osvath told The Associated Press. The attacks were only directed at humans viewing the apes across the moat surrounding the island compound where they were held.
However, he rarely hit visitors because of his poor aim, and no one was seriously injured in the cases when he did, Osvath said.
The observations confirmed the result of a staged laboratory experiment reported in 2006 by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. In that case orangutans and bonobos were able to figure out which tool would work in an effort to retrieve grapes, and were able to remember to bring that tool along hours later.
"Every time you can combine experimental and observational data and you get a consistent result, that is very powerful," said an author of the 2006 study, Joseph Call. "This is an important observation."
He noted that individual differences are big among chimpanzees so the observation might not mean all chimpanzees are capable of the same planning.
"It could be that he is a genius, only more research will tell. On the other hand our research showed the same in orangutans and bonobos so he is not alone," Call said.
Osvath said the chimpanzee had also been observed tapping on concrete boulders in the park to identify weak parts and then knocking out a piece. If it was too big for throwing, he broke it into smaller pieces, before adding them to his arsenal.
"It is very special that he first realizes that he can make these and then plans on how to use them," Osvath said. "This is more complex than what has been showed before."
The fact that the ape stayed calm while preparing his weapons but used them when he was extremely agitated proves that the planning behavior was not based on an immediate emotional drive, Osvath said.
For a while, zoo keepers tried locking Santino up in the morning so he couldn't collect ammunition for his assaults, but he remained aggressive. They ultimately decided to castrate him in the autumn last year, but will have to wait until the summer to see if that helps. The chimpanzees are only kept outdoors between April and October and Santino's special behavior usually occurs in June and July.
"It is normal behavior for alpha males to want to influence their surroundings ... It is extremely frustrating for him that there are people out of his reach who are pointing at him and laughing," Osvath said. "It cannot be good to be so furious all the time."
In Connecticut last month, a 200-pound pet chimpanzee once seen in TV commercials mauled a woman trying to help its owner lure it inside and cornered a police officer in his cruiser before he shot and killed it, authorities said
The owner has speculated that the chimp was trying to protect her and attacked the woman because she had changed her hairstyle, was driving a different car and was holding a stuffed toy in front of her face to get the chimp's attention.
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British MP Galloway kisses Gaza ground
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Some 24 days after leaving Britain, part of a Gaza aid convoy finally arrived in the Strip via the Rafah border crossing on Monday, prompting British MP George Galloway, who headed the group, to kiss the ground.
British MP George Galloway,...
British MP George Galloway, center, flashes a V-sign as he waits with other members of his entourage at the Rafah border crossing Sunday.
The "Viva Palestina" convoy, bringing medicine, food, clothing and toys, traveled more than 12,000 kilometers, through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. It also included ambulances and a fire engine.
The convoy reached the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing on Sunday, but was delayed due to the Egyptian security forces' objection to the delivery of non-medical aid. The activists spent the night in El-Arish, where locals reportedly pelted them with stones and sprayed anti-Hamas graffiti on their cars.
Eventually, an agreement was made with Egypt, whereby some of the non-medial supplies - including electrical generators and the fire engine - were unloaded and were to be transferred via the Egyptian Red Cross through border crossings under Israel's control after being checked by the IDF.
A Hamas border official said about 50 British and Scottish volunteers and 100 vehicles carrying food, clothing and medicine had passed through the Rafah terminal. Galloway said 300 British citizens and 200 Libyans would be entering Gaza.
After entering the Strip, Galloway called the aid "a drop in the ocean," but said the trip was to send a message that "the lifeline from Britain to Gaza is in."
He vowed that more such aid convoys would follow and that Gazans should not feel they were alone.
"I have entered Palestine many times but the most emotional of these is after the 22-day genocidal aggression against the Palestinian people," he told reporters.
Receiving the activists, Ahmed Kurd, Hamas's minister of social affairs, thanked Galloway for the "noble goodwill gesture" and called the lawmaker a "hero."