April 14th plays host to National Dolphin Day!
The infamously cute marine animal has a whole day dedicated to their existence for a good reason; not all, but some species of dolphin are endangered, and the biggest threat to their future is man. Let’s raise awareness for the protection of these beautiful creatures by finding out a little more about them.
Shocking statistics suggest that over 95% of dolphin deaths are directly linked to human related causes. These friendly carnivores, who spend their days munching on mostly fish and squid, are directly affected by contamination of their natural environment from oil, heavy metals and chemical pollution. They are top of the food chain, so the effect of contamination is much worse as they will be eating fish and plants that have also been contaminated in different places, therefore they run the risk of ultimately consuming a contamination cocktail.
Oil drilling, ship engines and navigational sonars create constant underwater noise that can scare, confuse or even injure these cetacean mammals. Noise pollution can often drive the dolphins away from breeding and feeding grounds, making it extremely difficult to thrive.
As humans, we have been sold the façade that these fascinating marine creatures are friendly and want to play, which is true enough, but we are now at a point where as tourists we are invading their breeding grounds and potentially preventing nature from taking its course!
Taking dolphins away from their natural surroundings into captivity is critically threatening to them, as they are exposed to disease, and the process of capture and transportation makes them extremely vulnerable. Research proves that these activities have directly caused an increase in dolphin deaths.
And the list goes on… They tend to get entangled in cages, shark safety and fishing nets and often collide with ships and rotor blades. They are also still victims of sport fishing to be used as bait or to reduce their presence in fishing areas.
It seems to be a trend across all wildlife in the world, that the more humans explore their habitat, the more we put them in danger. Responsible tourism could not be more important at a time where the endangerment of animals is a prominent concern within society. With the educational resources, there are available to humans regarding how to explore responsibly whilst allowing the animals to just exist in their natural habitat, there is no excuse good enough to put the animals at risk, the way humans continue to do so.
Dolphins are found worldwide in all of the oceans. They most commonly live in salt water, but some species are found in fresh water too. They prefer the shallower and warmer waters along the continental shelves, but dietary requirements can steer them away A dolphin’s habitat is very diverse due to their food requirements. Intelligent little things, they have the ability to adapt to their surroundings as and when they need to.
Migration is huge part of a dolphin’s existence. They must move where there is food, so how much dolphins migrate varies on these circumstances. Some species of dolphin have set migration patterns they routinely follow on an annual basis, whereas other pods of dolphins have been recorded living in one very small area all year round because food is in plentiful supply.
Pretty much, a dolphin’s life revolves around food, food, and more food!
Dolphins are gentle aquatic creatures, known for their playful behaviour. They are super smart, and conserve energy by catching a lift from the currents that ships make in the water which is known as ‘bow-riding’.
In some places, such as Brazil, bottlenose dolphins will actually team up with humans to catch fish. They use their hunting techniques to herd the fish towards the humans, then splash their fins and perform distinctive dives to let the people to cast their nets. The fisherman then capture the fish and the nets cause the fish to break formation, making it easier for the dolphins to get their share. The dolphins are confident and secure in this relationship they’ve built with the humans, amazingly knowing it benefits the both themselves and the people.
Watch this fascinating dolphin-human interaction here!
Phenomena like this show that we totally underestimate the extent of some animal’s intelligence, but also that there are ways to explore and enjoy these animals without putting them at risk!
Dolphins are able to mate all year round, but there is some evidence that there are peaks in the spring and autumn. A baby dolphin is called a calf, and cows (female dolphins) will give birth to one calf at a time. It is extremely rare, but it is possible for dolphins to have twins too! As soon as the baby calf is brought out into the big wide ocean from mum’s womb, it is essential it is brought to the surface by its mother so it can take its first breath. Mother and baby will stay together for any length of time between 3-8 years and will nurse for up to 11 months.
This Dolphin Day, celebrate by raising awareness and expanding the knowledge of these majestic creatures. Post your favourite dolphin pics, or wear something blue! You can even sign up to sponsor a dolphin to ensure their future. You can have the opportunity to witness these animals in their natural environments on a range of our marine life conservation projects. For more information head over to our website.
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Come face to face with one of the world’s most misunderstood predators whilst aiding great white shark conservation. As a volunteer, not only will you get the incredible opportunity to dive with sharks, but you will also assist the team in raising awareness of the great white as you work alongside tourists and local school children to provide them with knowledge of the local environment and the importance of living in harmony with South Africa’s marine life.
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