'Bibi' And 'Peres' Come To Vote

Haifa Port is the second largest and busiest port in the country, hosting the Israeli navy and servicing over 2,000 commercial ships per year. The main breakwater is 2,826 m in length with a 183 m wide opening; the entire harbor occupies 1,066,000 m2. Water visibility is less than 50 cm and its depth ranges from 2.5 to 15 m. Open sea lies to the west of the port.

Two dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), one adult and one juvenile, swam into the port (coordinates 32o49'5 N, 35o00'2 E) on Election Day, 29 May 1996 and were first observed swimming in circles at the innermost point (western part) of the harbor at 5:15 am near the marine police buildings. The tower guards notified Nimrod Otets, a naval ranger for the Ministry of the Environment of their presence, and he then notified IMMRAC. By 7:00 am IMMRAC members were on site. Observations of the dolphins' location, behavior, swimming formation, and submerged times, were made from 7:40 am to 3:30 pm. The dolphins surfaced a minimum of 215 times between 7:40 am and 11:30 am, diving for periods ranging between 4 and 130 seconds.

Due to the national holiday, traffic on the harbor was relatively light and it was possible to use some of the marine police boats. At 9:00 am, two 8.6 m Boston whalers, a 7 m zodiac and one surf board, attempted to herd the dolphins out of the port by banging metal pipes together underwater. By 9:20 am the boats were organized into a line, however the line broke at one point and the dolphins doubled back several times, finally swimming behind the boats at 9:40 am. At 10:00 am the herding attempt was abandoned, but observations continued to be made. The dolphins attempted to leave of their own accord at 11:57 am, but turned back due to traffic at the opening of the harbor. Between 12:55 pm and 2:15 pm the dolphins surfaced a minimum of 66 times, diving for periods of between 5 to 120 seconds.

A second attempt to herd the dolphins was made at 2:00 pm using the two 8.6 m Boston whalers and four surf boards. This time the line was spread across the entire breadth of the harbor and the banging of the metal pipes was continuous. The dolphins doubled back several times, but were stopped by Mira Roditi who was positioned on a surf board behind the line, expressly for this purpose. Boats entering the harbor also caused the dolphins to double back. After one and a half hours the dolphins reached the outer opening of the harbor and swam out to the open sea.

The newspaper Yediot dubbed the dolphins "Bibi" and "Peres" and postulated that they wanted to cast their vote for the new prime minister. Being temporary residents, however, they weren't eligible.

The herding effort was a success due to the support of: the Ministry of the Environment (via Elik Adler); the Sea Scouts; the Israeli Navy; the Port Authority; the workers of Haifa harbor; harbor tug boat operators; the University of Tel Aviv (Department of Zoology); and the many volunteers from IMMRAC and the University of Haifa.

Oz Goffman

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