Educational-California sea lions

Every four to five years, The Marine Mammal Center sees a surge in the number of California sea lions that are admitted with symptoms of leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that affects the kidneys and can be lethal. If not treated, the bacteria can cause irreversible kidney damage.

The Marine Mammal Center is currently responding to the second largest leptospirosis outbreak on record in California sea lions. Read more about the current outbreak. For media inquiries, please email media@tmmc.org.

Leptospirosis is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria called Leptospira. Veterinarians can usually identify leptospirosis in a patient even before laboratory tests confirm a diagnosis because of the infection’s distinctive symptoms in California sea lions, which include drinking water and folding the flippers over the abdomen.

Marine mammals generally do not need to drink water because they receive all the hydration they need from food sources. But when they are infected with the Leptospira , their kidneys stop functioning properly and cannot filter toxins or regulate hydration.

Sea lions diagnosed with leptospirosis are treated with antibiotics, fluids and other supportive care, such as gastroprotectants for stomach and intestinal ulcers. Unfortunately, even with treatment, roughly two-thirds of the animals that strand with acute leptospirosis do not survive.

However, research using data and samples collected at The Marine Mammal Center, as well as data collected from sea lions in the wild, indicate that many sea lions infected with Leptospira survive and likely experience mild or no symptoms of the disease, unlike the acute cases seen at our hospital.

Leptospirosis is a major health burden for humans, domestic animals and wildlife worldwide with over 500,000 severe cases in humans every year. Leptospira can cause disease ranging from infection with no symptoms to severe and possibly fatal disease.

The type of Leptospira affecting California sea lions at The Marine Mammal Center is a strain that has also been associated with pigs, skunks and foxes. It’s transmitted via urine, either directly or via contaminated water or soil.

Researchers haven’t definitively determined how transmission occurs within the sea lion population, but they believe it occurs primarily while sea lions are hauled out on land. The bacteria may also survive for short periods in seawater, so transmission may be possible when large groups of sea lions gather in the water.

When a leptospirosis outbreak occurs, our scientists study the disease to learn more about what causes an outbreak and how we can improve treatment for infected animals. Thanks to the Center’s 43 years of stranding records and bank of blood and urine samples, researchers have a unique opportunity to investigate the disease patterns over four decades.

The graph above shows the seasonal nature of these outbreaks, reflected in large numbers of California sea lions stranding and being treated at the Center for clinical signs of kidney failure. © The Marine Mammal Center
For over 10 years, scientists at The Marine Mammal Center have collaborated with researchers at the Lloyd-Smith Laboratory in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA to study the dynamics of this pathogen in the California sea lion population. The Center has been on the forefront of research on leptospirosis in marine mammals and has published a number of scientific papers on the disease dating back to 1985.

Leptospira was first detected in California sea lions in 1970 during a leptospirosis outbreak that occurred along the coast of California, Oregon and Washington. And since the 1980s we have seen yearly, seasonal outbreaks with major outbreak events causing 100 or more sea lion strandings happening every four to five years.

The reasons for these periodic major outbreaks in sea lions is unknown, however our UCLA collaborators believe that a combination of factors may be responsible, such as changes in herd immunity, sea surface temperatures and sea lion migration patterns.

Interestingly, after 30 uninterrupted years of seeing at least a few cases of leptospirosis annually, the disease disappeared from the population in late 2013 only to reappear four years later. Researchers at UCLA believe the disappearance of the disease may be related to the highly anomalous oceanographic conditions that occurred during the same time period. The abnormally warm waters, commonly referred to as “the Blob,” may have caused changes in sea lion behavior and migration patterns as they struggled to find food sources.

Since 2009, the Center’s biologists and veterinary staff have taken blood and urine samples from wild juvenile California sea lions at popular haul-out spots in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. These animals are then tagged and released, and the urine and blood samples help researchers learn more about kidney function and exposure rates among these animals.

This collaborative research project also relies on long-term demographic datasets generated by our partners at the NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Laboratory. These biologists monitor and track pups born on the Channel Islands every year. We also work closely with biologists in Oregon and Washington who monitor the sea lions in those areas.

Many different animal species, including humans and dogs, can become infected with Leptospira through contact with contaminated urine, water or soil. The Marine Mammal Center has a number of safety protocols in place to prevent transmission to veterinarians and volunteers working with our sea lion patients.

 

 

Source: https://viadolphin.com/research-information/

 

Self-Development – Independent Learning

SELF-DEVELOPMENT – INDEPENDENT LEARNING
Have you ever started to work in a Dolphinarium and seen others busy moving around doing different tasks and you don’t have any idea of what you should or could be doing?
How many times have wanted to learn or be given the opportunity to work hands on with the animals, but because of your lack experience you have been placed at the back of the line, waiting for your time to come?
When new staff start working in a Dolphinarium they must wait until management decides who they choose to work directly with the animals…and you could just be waiting and waiting.
What if I tell you, you can learn everything you need to know, even before you step into a Dolphinarium!
Imagine going straight in with the confidence and understanding, getting familiar with everything you need to know, including the training jargon trainers use to communicate with each other.
You don’t have to wait until someone teaches you the basics of what trainers are doing at any given time, or know what they need to do next.
Now you don’t have to wait or risk limited training you may access anywhere else.
With our self-educating courses, you can be a step ahead and be able to develop to your fullest potential.
You now can learn step by step what they may not teach you on the job or on the internet… the secrets, tricks and different techniques of marine mammal training.
For more information contact

viadolphin@hotmail.co.uk

 

Endocrine disruptions found in bottle nose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins are being exposed to chemical compounds added to many common cleaning products, cosmetics, personal care products and plastics, according to a new study in GeoHealth, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The new research found evidence of exposure to these chemical compounds, called phthalates, in 71 percent of dolphins tested in Sarasota Bay, Florida during 2016 and 2017. Previous studies detected phthalate metabolites in the blubber or skin of a few individual marine mammals, but the new study is the first to document the additives in the urine of wild marine mammals.

Some phthalates have been linked to hormonal, metabolic and reproductive problems in humans, including low sperm count and abnormal development of reproductive organs. The study’s authors do not know what health impacts phthalate compounds may have on dolphins, but the presence of byproducts of the chemicals in the animals’ urine indicates they have remained in the body long enough to process them.

“We focused on urine in dolphins because, in previous studies of humans, that has been the most reliable matrix to indicate short-term exposure.” said Leslie Hart, a public health professor at the College of Charleston and the lead author of the new study.

Studies have linked human exposure to phthalates with use of products containing these additives, such as personal care products and cosmetics, but Hart said the source of dolphin exposure to phthalates is not yet known. Elevated concentrations in dolphin urine of a specific phthalate compound most commonly added to plastics hinted at plastic waste as a possible source of exposure for the dolphins, she said.

“These chemicals can enter marine waters from urban runoff and agricultural or industrial emissions, but we also know that there is a lot of plastic pollution in the environment” said Hart.

Understanding exposure in dolphins gives scientists insight into the contaminants in local waters and what other animals, including humans, are being exposed to, according to the study’s authors.

Gina Ylitalo, an analytical chemist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center who was not involved in the study, said dolphins are good indicators of what is going on in coastal waters.

“Any animals in the near shore environment with similar prey are probably being exposed as well,” she said. “The dolphins are great sentinels of the marine environment.”

Ubiquitous contaminants

Phthalate compounds are added to a wide variety of products to confer flexibility, durability, and lubrication. Some phthalates interfere with body systems designed to receive messages from hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. This can disrupt natural responses to these hormone signals.

Tests for phthalate exposure look for metabolites of the compounds, the products of initial breakdown of the compounds by the liver.

“We are looking for metabolites. These are indicators that the dolphins have been exposed somewhere in their environment and that the body has started to process them,” Hart said.

About 160 dolphins live in Sarasota Bay, a subtropical coastal lagoon tucked between barrier islands and the cities of Sarasota and Bradenton on the southwest coast of Florida. The Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program has tracked individual dolphins since 1970, monitoring their health, behavior, and exposure to contaminants. The dolphins are residents of the area year-round, across multiple decades, with individuals living up to 67 years.

In 2016 and 2017, Hart and her colleagues tested the urine of 17 wild dolphins in and around Sarasota Bay for nine phthalates. They found phthalate metabolites in the urine of 71 percent of the dolphins tested.

Hart compared the dolphin data to human data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which includes information about behavior and diet as well as blood and urine samples from a large cross section of the U.S. population. She found concentrations of one type of phthalate metabolite, monoethyl phthalate (MEP), were much lower in dolphins than in the human population surveyed by NHANES, but concentrations of another type of phthalate metabolite, mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP), were equivalent or higher to the levels found in humans.

“If you look at the primary uses of the parent compounds, MEP’s parent is commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products including shampoos and body wash, whereas MEHP is a metabolite of a compound commonly added to plastic,” Hart said.

Indicator species

Understanding what dolphins are exposed to gives researchers and the public a better idea of what is in the environment.

The study is particularly valuable because of the long-term data available on the Sarasota dolphins’ health and behavior, said Ylitalo. Bottlenose dolphins are good indicators of pollutant exposure in whales and dolphins that can’t be easily sampled.

“We will not be getting urine samples from killer whales in my neck of the woods,” Ylitalo said. “They don’t know what the health effects are yet, but if any group can do it, it will be these type of folks who start teasing it out.”

Documenting exposure was an important first step, Hart said. She wants to expand the sample size to continue investigating the extent and potential health impacts of exposure and start tracking down possible sources. Ultimately, she hopes this research could be used to help curtail the sources of contamination.

“We’ve introduced these chemicals, they are not natural toxins, and we have the ability to reverse it, to clean this up.” Hart said.

 

source

www.sciencedaily.com

Open water sea lion interaction

When you love your job…take it to the highest level, when your animals trust in you, decide to work wherever you take them and give you a 100% back…that is a successful animal trainer.

That…is when you really feel proud of yourself and the work you have done!

Congratulations to the trainer Abel Reyes and his team

Well done!

 

IMG-20171218-WA0010_resized