Students take an interest in the project…

…UAE Dolphin project presented to the YR12 students at the American Universal School last December. Thanks to Time Out that posted our advert and three enthusiastic students that contacted us and made this happen. They are now working on putting together an information package to promote dolphin awareness among the younger students.  Here is what they say:

Kevin YR 12

“I was fortunate enough to come across Dr. Natoli while browsing through the newspaper for volunteer work for myself and group of friends. Upon finding a listing about dolphins in the UAE, my friends and I immediately gained an interest in it. Upon contacting her via email asking her if she would like any help with the project, we were pleased to hear her confirming response. Since then, we have been helping her raise awareness about dolphins in the Gulf as well as her project which is to learn more about them and how we may better preserve their environment. Dr. Natoli was kind enough to come to our school and give a very informative presentation about whales and dolphins, the population of dolphins in the area and a little about her project and how we can help her with it. After this, we decided to continue spreading the information within our school to the younger grades so they too can be informed. If time permits we would love to continue to help Dr. Natoli in her project in any way we can, as not only is it interesting, it’s the first I have heard about dolphin research and preserving their population and the marine environment in Dubai and I would love to play a part, regardless of how small it may be in the preservation of these animals and their home.”


Faheem YR12

“My name is Faheem and I am a senior doing the International Baccalaureate program. To complete this program we are required to complete a certain amount of CAS hours which involve doing three categories of activities: Creativity, Action, and Service. To complete our service hours we began to look in the newspaper for volunteering opportunities when we came across Dr. Natoli’s ad for the UAE dolphin project. My group mates and I were specifically intrigued by this ad as we have seen dolphins in the UAE before and we wanted to learn more about them. So we decided to send Dr. Natoli an email to see her intentions and how we could help. When she replied she had described to us that she was interested in learning more about the dolphins in the Gulf region, as well as to raise awareness about these dolphins to help conserve their marine environment. After discussion with Dr. Natoli she came to our school and presented to the juniors of our grade all about types of dolphins, what they look like, how they survive and the information we know about them (which isn’t much especially in the Gulf). This presentation got us more interested in the cause of dolphins as well as marine life in general to an extent in which we are now going to present to other grades in our school to raise further awareness of the conditions of the dolphins and hopefully get a chance to collect more data on the types we have in the Gulf and how we can help conserve their marine environment.”


Selim YR 12

“I met Dr. Natoli through my school’s “group-sustained project” as part of my CAS (extracurricular Creativity, Action, or Service experiences) requirements. The project is undertaken by students taking the International Baccalaureate Diploma program and my peers and I are students enrolled in this program at the Universal American School of Dubai. We were looking for opportunities to provide some form of service to the community, flipping through a local magazine, when we found a small advertisement for the Dolphin Awareness Project. My peers and I then debated on whether or not we should actually call the number, and of course we made the right call and have had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Natoli into our school. Dr. Natoli has already presented to the Juniors during one of their class assemblies. She went over basic dolphin background information which was very interesting, especially focusing on the different types and classifications of dolphins. She then linked that to Dubai and talked about their presence here, the lack of research on dolphins in the area, and finally, what to do upon sighting a dolphin.  My peers and I hope to continue to help after her presentation by raising awareness and making the Dolphin Project something that is known and talked about within the school. We hope to do this by having presentations similar to Dr. Natoli’s and hopefully reaching both the Secondary and Elementary sides of the school.”


Some great sightings and an injured false killer whale…

…have been reported through our Facebook page or the “Report a Sighting” system and a few more by phone or word of mouth. Eight sightings were reported from the east and west coast, from Ras al Khaimah to Abu Dhabi! You can view the sightings on our Sighting map. Among those reported, one possible finless porpoise and sadly an injured false killer whale, possibly hit by a propeller, in Dibba, Oman. It has been the first experience that proved how social networks can be useful in those situations. A team from Absolute Adventure was on the site and did great work in monitoring the animal for almost a full day. The animal was re-sighted the day after so hopefully it has recovered.  If you are interested in more great pictures visit Absolute Adventure on Facebook. False killer whales occur in the Indian Ocean and have also been reported in the Gulf. More information on this species are now on the project website. Even more worrying is the report of the stranding of a group of the same species not too far south on the Omani coast, three weeks ago and another dead dolphin in Abu Dhabi. Strandings are sad and stressful events and can involve many individuals at once. However, a stranded dolphin can provide invaluable scientific information. If you ever come across a dead dolphin, no matter how decomposed it looks please contact us!

UAE dolphin project is on air!

Let’s launch it! This is the official website of the UAE dolphin project, a non-profit initiative that aims to gather information on the local dolphin population and the raise public awareness on these species.  It took a long way to get here and the input and patience of many people that truly made this possible. So thank you to everyone that has supported me in the past year and a half sharing ideas, discussing research plans and funding opportunities.

Before adventuring into this “building a webpage business”, last spring I tested the public interest in dolphins and the will to help collecting more information on the local dolphin population. I have been in contact with some diving clubs, some Marinas, I interviewed some of the usual users of the Dubai coastline  (see Occasional Sighting Survey) and the response has always been enthusiastic.

Now we have to make it work, fill it up with your sightings and spread the information and I hope it will continue to grow.

As first step of the public awareness strategy of the project, my target is to reach as many people as possible, through the numerous Dubai’s diving clubs, the marinas, the public and private sector. And then is up to YOU to feed information… and to us to conduct a dedicated boat survey to obtain scientific baseline information on the status of the local population.

Why is your information essential? Because dolphin research cannot be done alone. It needs the concerted effort of everyone. Dolphins spend most of their time underwater, they are not easy to see and the sea is BIG! Even the most skilled cetacean researchers can survey an area for hours, not seeing anything, and at the same time a casual boater makes the most amazing sighting!  As there is no information on the local population, your occasional sighting reports are essential to gain an idea of where these species are most frequently seen and better target a dedicated survey. And you are already doing it! I  searched UTube and I was surprised at how many videos of occasional sightings have been posted! You can view a collection of them from the homepage of the project website and if you have more, please let me know, I am sure I have missed some.

Through the website at the “Sighting map” page, everybody can directly see his sighting and all the information that has provided. You can also find information on how approach dolphins safely and make the most of your sighting, and a species identification booklet will be soon available. So stay tuned!

The Project is also linked to the main social networks to reach everybody in the easiest way and gives different options to report a sighting. If you have suggestion how to improve this, let us know. For now, let’s give it a go and make it work! Report your sighting!!



Dolphins in Dubai

Are there wild dolphins in Dubai waters? From a survey questionnaire conducted in Dubai in the past three months by Dr. Natoli, aimed to investigate the frequency of occasional dolphin sightings along the Dubai coastline, it appears that dolphins can be seen in Dubai not only among the dolphinariums walls. Dr. Natoli, adjunct assistant Professor at UAE University, reports: “Eighty-four per cent of the people I interviewed, have seen dolphin in Dubai waters and although the majority affirmed that they see dolphins only “sometimes or rarely”, 74% have seen dolphins in the past four months, suggesting that dolphins inhabit these waters more frequently than expected. Most of the sightings were reported within 5 miles from shore and in very frequented coastal locations like in front of Palm Jumeirah and Burj Al Arab”.

The survey questionnaire is part of a preliminary assessment analysis of a non-profit research project, UAE Dolphins that aims to investigate the status of small cetaceans along the Dubai coastlines and to raise public awareness about these magnificent animals and their environment. Dr. Natoli, says: “As proved by the results of the survey questionnaire and by recent stranding, dolphins occur along the Dubai coast, but we do not have any consistent scientific data regarding the status of the dolphin population that may inhabit Dubai waters, nor about which species actually occur, their numbers, whether they are resident, transitory or declining populations”

“The recent stranding of three dead dolphins in Dubai promptly reported by EMEG, a sperm whale in Fujairah and a killer whale in Kuwait raise concerns among the ecologist, but more than everything highlight the paucity of information available on these animals in this area and in general in the Gulf area”, Dr. Natoli affirms.

Dr. Natoli interviewed sixty-one users of Dubai waters in collaboration with several governmental and non-governmental bodies, among those Dubai Marina Yacht Club, Dubai International Marine Club, Dubai Surf Ski and Kayak Club, the Marine Transport Department in Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) and the operators of their marine fleet, and the “Marine Environment and Wildlife Section” of Environment Department, Dubai Municipality.

Dolphins are of crucial importance in the marine environment and they are considered “ecological indicators”, as they occupy the top of the marine food chain, at the same level as sharks, and big commercial fish, like tuna. Therefore, assessing their status gives directly an indication of the status of the whole marine environment.

Dr. Natoli says: “Occasional records suggest that at least three species may be found in coastal waters, the IndoPacific Bottlenose dolphin, the Indo Pacific Humpback dolphin and the elusive small finless porpoise”.

The project is aiming to provide scientific baseline information that will help the conservation of these species and the local marine environment, through the conduction of a boat-based survey and to raise public awareness through educational campaign and the development of an Occasional Sighting Network. The project is still seeking the necessary funding to cover the fieldwork cost, but everybody can easily contribute to the Occasional Sighting Network every time he sight a dolphin y going onto our webpage and follow REPORT A SIGHTING or by sending an SMS to 0566717164 including date, time, location of the sighting, approximate number of individuals and if any photo or video was taken.