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UK Government makes welcome move to enshrine Animal Sentience in UK law

We published this feature in late November when this issue broke, but on the 12th December Defra announced that the UK will introduce a new Animal Welfare Bill 2018 that ‘…sets out that the government “must have regard to the welfare needs of animals as sentient beings in formulating and implementing government policy”. Whilst welcoming this move, WDC…

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New study on brain size and cultural behaviour in whales and dolphins

Authors of a new scientific paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution have put forward the theory that there is a link between brain size and social and cultural behaviour in whales and dolphins.  The researchers looked at 90 different species of whales and dolphins and suggest the bigger their brains, the more complex…

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Whale heroes

Researchers have recorded a number of cases where humpback whales seem to be intentionally rescuing other species. The motivation behind these actions are unknown, but it begs the questions whether these rescues are driven by the whales’ empathy. In the first of our guests blogs as part of #whaleweek, Kathryn Leckie from WDC partner ‘My…

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Sperm whale cultural turn-over: moving on out

Decades of research on sperm whales in the Pacific has revealed a most remarkable social event.  Researchers have documented the large-scale relocation of cultural groups of sperm whales off the Galápagos Islands. Sperm whale clans can be differentiated by their unique click patterns, or codas. Researchers have been visiting the waters around the Galapagos over…

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Research reveals pilot whales babysit young of other whales

A new report in Marine Mammal Science on the findings of a study of pilot whales off Nova Scotia, Canada, has shown that adult whales in the population look after the young of unrelated other whales. While this type of babysitting, know as “alloparental care”, has been observed in other social mammals, it is the…

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Dolphin with broken blowhole learns to breathe through mouth

A New Zealand dolphin has amazed researchers in New Zealand by adapting to breathe through his or her mouth after she or he was unable to use the blowhole, according to a report in Marine Mammal Science. Whereas humans have the option to either use their nose or mouth, dolphins have evolved to just use…

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Are humpback whales saving seals from orca attacks?

It appears that we humans may not be the only ones that care about the welfare of others creatures. Global data being analysed by scientists seems to suggest that humpback whales are making a conscious effort to rescue other species, like seals, from attacks by orcas. Although more scientific study needs to be done, there are…

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Whales and dolphins mourning their dead?

There’s some  debate about what biologists call epimeletic behaviour in whales and dolphins. Essentially, this refers to the giving of care or attention to another individual. The debate rarely centres around identifying the act itself, which is often easy to recognise, particularly where it involves care or attention from a healthy individual being focussed upon…

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Research uncovers more secrets about how whales ‘talk’

Scientists in Germany have moved a step nearer to understanding the different dialects that whales use when they communicate with each other. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization used computers to analyse a range of aspects of long-finned pilot whale communication, such as whistles, and then built up a ‘set of rules’ or…

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New film looks at the issue of whale and dolphin rights

By All Rights, a new documentary by US filmmaker Stan Minasian, is the first documentary to tackle the issue of whales’ and dolphins’ emerging rights: Rights to life, and to freedom. It includes amazing footage, including a remarkable rescue of entangled sperm whales, where the whales wait patiently for rescuers to free them. It also contains interviews with key…

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