Why Free Willy?

Posted Posted in TopStory

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Many people understand that killer whales should not be help captive in locations such as SeaWorld, based on the size of the animal relative to the size of the tank. Although, there are many other health issues that arise due to keeping these amazingly beautiful and intricate creatures in bath-tub sized tanks. In this blog, I wanted to discuss two of those issues: collapsed dorsal fin, and tooth decay.

The risk of infections and bacterium in pool-sized tanks due to tooth decay is a high concern for killer whales in captivity as they bite down on steel gates separating the training pools from the performance pools (Jett & Ventre, 2011). I will explain the consequences of tooth fragments and the exposure of the pulp of the teeth. Because the space in amusement parks is not comparable to the size of the ocean, there are elevated risks of diseases (Jett & Ventre, 2011). I have provided background information on health factors, diseases, visible signs of distress, and specific cases on the reasons scientists and societies began to focus on the captivity of orcas. Female orcas have a mean life expectancy of 50.2 years and a maximum of 80-90 years; wild males have a mean life expectancy of 29.2 years, and a maximum of 50-60 years (Olesiuk et al, 1990). Most industry sources insist around 35 years as the maximum captive lifespan (Mooney, 1998). Of the 107 orcas in captivity that have died since 1961, average length of survival was under six years. The health affects presented to orcas in captivity are of concern to medical, veterinary, and orca researchers. The elevated opportunities for infectious agents cause many problems for orcas in close proximities (Jett & Ventre, 2011). Treatments of these illnesses are constantly evolving as veterinary staff is discovering new diseases.

 

The factors that play into the deaths of orcas in captivity at young ages include: collapsed dorsal fin syndrome, tooth decay, and brain damage, to name the most studied (Ridgway 1979). Collapsed dorsal fin syndrome is a major theme in health concerns for captive orcas because it is not seen in the wild. This is due to the lack of space and movement that orcas are able to carry out in the pools they are held in. Contrary to captivity, the lateral, torsional, and compressive forces generated by consistent moving in the ocean water sculpt vertical dorsal fins (Jett & Ventre, 2011).  With the removal of these forces, and the constant surfacing of orcas in captivity, the connective tissue is impaired and results in a collapsed dorsal fin. This phenomenon is not seen in females due to the incomparable size of dorsal fins in females versus males. Male orcas acquire taller dorsal fins than females (Durdab et al, 2006). This also plays from the fact that orcas in captivity do not have to chase live fish due to a change in diet. Now, they eat dead, frozen fish, rather than having to strategize for their meals. This lack of movement causes fins to collapse, as well as provides less nutrition and other health affects.

 

 Killer whales are some of the most aggressive animals on the planet. Ways that they display dominance in cases of captivity include biting down on the steel bars of the pools. This is known as a process called “jaw-popping,” and is used to show another orca that they are of lower hierarchal status than the one showing aggression (Graham & Dow, 1990). In addition to showing aggression, it is very common for orcas to experience boredom and social strife, which is shown by chewing on the steel gates that separate them from their training pools and entertainment pools (Jett & Ventre, 2011). Tooth fragments are commonly found on the bottom of their pools and can leave some of the pulp of the tooth exposed if not picked up. Improper care of teeth can lead to a number of diseases including: valvular heart disease, gingivitis, pneumonia, stroke, and heart attack (Jett & Ventre, 2011). Pathogens have a direct route to the blood stream through open bore holes due to teeth falling out. These can then be deposited into the tissue of various organs throughout the body, such as the heart or kidney. Some orcas have their teeth drilled and are treated with prophylactic antibiotics to control the risk of bacteria. It is known that long-term antibiotic use can lead to health effects aside from tooth decay, such as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, increased susceptibility to certain cancers, and disruption of intestinal flora leading to phytochemical malnourishment (Jett & Ventre 2008). There is also an increase in risk for skin cancer since various antibiotics can cause photosensitiation and phototoxicity to those exposed to UVR. With the constant exposure to the sun, due to minimal availability of shade in the orca pools, the risk of skin cancer is higher in captivity than in the wild.

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Reef-Safe Sunscreen: The Craze for the Rays

Posted Posted in TopStory

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Reef-Safe Sunscreen: The Craze for the Rays  

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It is a known fact around the world that sunscreen is used to protect your skin from harsh UV rays that can cause skin cancer. There is an immense variety of sunscreens that you can choose from varying on activity level, SPFs, etc. However, how many sunscreens are out there that are environmentally friendly? What researchers have found is that the chemicals in sunscreen are having a direct effect on the health of coral reefs through a process that happens when specific ingredients are released into the water. The two main components of sunscreen are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, both of which never biodegrade. Mineral oil and petroleum, are also found in some sunscreen, which slowly dilutes into solutions. However, there are solutions to this. For example, a mineral-based sunscreen.

 

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To look more into this product and to purchase your own bottle of environmentally-friendly, reef-safe sunscreen for your next tropical vacation, go here, and a portion of your proceeds will go to Colorado Ocean Coalition.

An inactivate virus living within the environment of corals and their symbiotic algae becomes activated in the presence of chemicals found in sunscreens. This virus causes a rather bad outcome, as do most viruses, resulting in either the release or the destruction of the algae living within the coral, therefore destroying the coral’s only source of nutrients and food.

 

Without the mutual symbiosis with the algae, the corals turn white, also known as coral bleaching, as a result of the nutrient-rich corals starving. Although, it isn’t the zinc oxide and titanium oxide that is causing this to happen, it is the chemicals added into a mixture that disrupt the corals. The ingredients that do cause this to happen include: oxynenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidine camphor, and cinnamate. With that said, not only are the reefs themselves being effected, but so is the surrounding water with other ingredients that are being diluted into oceanic waters.

 

So how can we, as ocean loving and adventurous people be able to continue to explore the vast diversity of the ocean without simultaneously killing it off? Well, researchers have found the main ingredients in the most popular sunscreens that can activate this virus, and others have created sunscreens lacking these chemicals. Rather than absorbing the sun’s rays like chemical-based sunscreen does, a mineral-based sunscreen reflects the sun’s rays. Also, mineral sunscreen has been found to be better for those with sensitive skin, as it is less irritating. So, not only are you getting a sunscreen that is great for sensitive skin, it is just as protective as other sunscreen, and it serves as a relief to the beautiful corals and rainbow fish that you long to see.

 

Recently, there have been many companies that have started creating mineral-based sunscreen, and quite successfully too. A company called Beautycounter (which you can check out here), specializes in creating beauty products free of toxic substances. Their mission is to create products with safe components, due to the increase in health issues occurring from toxic chemicals put into everyday necessities. According to their research, the US has only banned 11 ingredients used in personal care products, while the European Union has banned over 1,300 ingredients. Beautycounter has successfully banned more than 1,500 ingredients, as stated on their “our mission” portion of their website, which you can view here. Their company has truly been an inspiration to our society today. With that said, they have created a sun-shying, coral reef-sighing sunscreen that lacks the unsafe ingredients that the most popular sunscreen brands use! AND they use a non-nano zinc oxide as the sun protector, which simply means a tiny version of zinc oxide that will not enter the bloodstream as a nano zinc oxide would. Every single ingredient, I mean every, is listed on their website when you select this sunscreen, as well as any of their other products. With constant and accurate testing, researchers for Beautycounter are able to determine which ingredients fit within their extremely strict guidelines and are allowed to be used in their products. Just looking at the ingredients list for the Protect All Over, I see that none of the coral damaging ingredients are listed, and are otherwise substituted by Citrus Limon Oil and Mimosa Tenuiflora Bark Extract- both of which sound much more natural to me.

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To look more into this product and to purchase your own bottle of environmentally-friendly, reef-safe sunscreen for your next tropical vacation, go here, and a portion of your proceeds will go to Colorado Ocean Coalition.