The end of my marine mammal summer school

dolphins jumping

Well I am currently writing this as I sit on the train on my way to Munich to then keep going back towards Slovakia. There is a little stress as my train was delayed by 30 minutes which meant I would miss my connection to Budapest, however the previously delayed train arrived as the station staff were debating what to do with me. So at present I am on an delayed earlier train which is pretty much running at the same time as the train I am scheduled to be on.

So anyways, sadly my week long marine mammal summer school is over, I’m exhausted now (if I make my Munich connection I got a 9 hour journey to sleep!) however my brain is still buzzing with all the information that has been packed into it. Today was more about the studbook and population management programs. This is where the zoo environment can play a role In bringing species back into the wild. For example one of the first programs was for the black footed ferret which went extinct in the wild towards the end of the 1970’s. In 1985 a captive breeding program using 18 captive animals allowed the species to be reintroduced which I think is pretty cool. Obviously this was only possible as the environment for these animals was still there (unlike the environments now wiped out because of palm oil or deforestation).

The next talk was one I was pretty excited about, we had international marine mammal veterinary consultant Geraldine Lacave to teach us as much as she could about reproduction. Now this is an interesting topic, and one that uses a lot of specialised techniques. Salt water is actually lethal for sperm, and so dolphins for example have evolved a cervix which prevents the contamination of sperm with water. A lot of reproduction is monitoring and this is usually done with ultrasound – because of the size of muscles and blubber layers there are very specific acoustic windows that must be used for this on each species.

We then finished up with a look at the zoo’s and the public which was very interesting to get an inside perspective on. Whilst people have a right to protest, the question here was when it came to people protesting animal welfare, where did the staff welfare stand?

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