Finless porpoise in Dubai waters

IMG_0456red Feature: Cristyn Ashley

January field work has been very rewarding indeed. The project has been extremely fortunate to spot finless porpoises on two separate occasions during our recent scientific survey. Finless porpoises are among the smallest cetaceans in the world. Not only do the grow to just over 1 and a half meters but they lack a dorsal fin, which compounds the difficulty in spotting them. Let’s just say we now understand why very little is known about these animals!

The first sighting was short and sweet. The sea was not on our side, and the waves were higher than the porpoise. We only managed to stay with them for around 5 minutes before they disappeared. However, the fact we could positively identify and photograph this species in that short space of time was both exciting and frustrating. Our second sighting followed a few days later. This time the sea was perfect. We counted four individuals including a juvenile, and managed to record several different behaviours.

During our observation we noted that the porpoises would surface for 2-3 breaths then reappear in a completely different location to where we anticipated them to from the direction of travel. We observed the group split and reform many times, which is what may be expected as the basic group size is 2 animals (either mother and calf or 2 adults) and larger pods are congregations of these smaller groups. We were also fortunate to witness feeding behavior during which the porpoise breached several times rushing in one direction and then suddenly stopping. Lots of seagulls joined the group too. A great encounter indeed!



Raising awareness among lifesavers and the public at Saadiyat Island

It all started with an interesting high number of sightings reported by the public, and in particular, by Arabella Willing from Park Hyatt Hotel and Villas Abu Dhabi. It really looks like the dolphins are also enjoying the fancy resorts! Along Saadiyat beach, lifesavers are permanently present to ensure the safety of bathers, but they also regularly spot dolphins, sometimes coming very close to shore. From this came the idea to raise awareness amongst the lifesavers about the dolphins they see. We delivered our first presentation to the staff of Park Hyatt last December. In the frame of the Abu Dhabi Environmental week, we were invited by the Monte Carlo Beach Club and the Bake Public Beach, in collaboration with the Institute Français, to present to lifesavers and the public.

We illustrated how to report a sighting and how this can help researchers (and the business!) but more importantly, how to ensure the safety of the public if dolphins come close to shore. The general perception of dolphins is one of a cute gentle animal that always smiles, and the public is used to the ideas of dolphins in captivity that are somehow accustomed to interact with humans (although accidents can still happen). The reality is different: despite being among the most intelligent animals on Earth, wild dolphins are still wild animals. To be precise they are carnivores, 250 kilos on average, and with lots of teeth!! Please think twice when you are temped to swim with them!

Thank you to Arabella, Park Hyatt Hotel and Villas Abu Dhabi,pioneer of this initiative,  Charlotte, Monte Carlo Beach Club, Marion from the Institute Français Abu Dhabi and Bake Public Beach to provide us with this opportunity!


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More strandings in Saadiyat Island


After a sad stranding of a male finless porpoise last October on Dubai shores, we were again called in for two strandings this time in the Abu Dhabi Emirate on Saadiyat Island.

The strandings were recorded in November, 10 days apart to one another, and in both cases they were male bottlenose dolphins. There were no clear sign that could allow us to identify the cause of death. The first animal was still in pretty good condition and we were able to conduct a necropsy collecting the stomach content, sampling the different organs and skin for genetic analysis. The necropsy revealed that it was a male sub-adult, as the reproductive organs were still not fully developed. In the second case the carcass was in a bad condition, but we were still able to collect all the important morphological information and a samples for the genetic analysis.

Strandings are sad events but are extremely important for researchers. Please if you come across a dead dolphin let us know!

Thanks to Arabella from Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas for contacting us and helping gathering the data, TDIC to give us access to the animals, Ana from Dolphin Bay, Atlantis the Palm, for her invaluable help and expertise in conducting the necropsy and Camilla for helping on the site.

Celebrating 42nd UAE National Day

Feature: Cristyn Ashley

In celebration of the 42nd National Day the UAE Dolphin Project was excited to be part of the Boat Parade organised by the Dubai Marina Yacht Club. Over 30 boats adorned in UAE flags and balloons participated in the parade, and the project decorating our boat as a dolphin-complete with dorsal fin and fluke!

On land Dubai Marina Yacht Club continued the festivities with various Fun Family activities such as face painting, children’s entertainment and live cooking stations. The UAE Dolphin Project was kindly asked to run a stand where we provided further activities for the children such as puzzles and draw a dolphin competition where the lucky winner had the chance to name one of our re-sighted dolphins. This event also gave the project an opportunity to answer questions about dolphins and how the project aims to understand the local populations found in Dubai waters. Another great day, made possible by the great support of the DMYC and the project volunteers.



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UAE Dolphin Project goes to University

UAEDP_AUSpresentationFeature: Camilla Argent

We were so delighted that so many students and professors attended our seminar entitled: “Whales and Dolphins in the Gulf: ecological indicators of the local marine environment” held on November 13th , at the Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environment at the American University of Sharjah. The talk focused on the importance of cetaceans in the marine ecosystem, their role as “ecological indicators” of the health of the marine environment, and synthesised existing information about cetaceans in the Gulf. This then led to a discussion about the research of the project and what can be done to support conservation in the UAE. It was also highlighted the importance of involving students in environmental research and we were delighted that many of the students in attendance expressed an interest in working more closely with the project by volunteering as research assistants as part of their course modules. Thank you to Dr. Pappalardo for proposing the subject to the Department and Dr. Dalibalta and Dr.Bartholomew for  supporting the organization. We look forward to working with some of you in the future!