and dolphins worldwide need protection as they face many threats
from people. Oman has played an important role in stopping international
whaling and is the only country in Arabian-peninsula to be a member of
the International Whaling Commission that bans the hunting of
is also a strong supporter of the International Union for Conservation
of Nature and Natural Resources.
Sultanate also enforces the global ban on hunting and killing
of these marine mammals and secure and conserve their natural
a result of these efforts the Sultanate has gained a respectable
position among nations concerned with environmental protection.
are a few things to bear in mind when interacting with dolphins
or whales. They are wild animals and one should respect their
order to do so, always let the whales or dolphins choose how they
want to interact with you. This means: Do keep a distance of 100
metres for whales and 50 metres for dolphins. Toothed
cetaceans of Oman
let them come closer and do not force yourself on the animal.
Always remember: the animal can dive, you cannot. Do turn off
your engine or let the motor idle, if the whales or dolphins become
curious and decide to come closer and have a look at you. Do keep
a predictable course and do not separate groups. Do not speed
towards them but approach slowly at a constant speed from a parallel
position or from behind. Do not speed through groups. Do not try
to chase or herd animals. Do not try to feed them or throw rubbish
into the water. How to identify a dolphin or a whale?
of whales or dolphins in the open sea is not easy. Most of the
time they remain hidden from view. If they surface to breathe,
the intervals are often too short to see much of the animal. For
the inexperienced spectator dolphins and whales look almost the
same at first.
each animal has distinctive features which enable its identification.
To identify an animal it is best to run through a mental checklist
of the features described below.
Friends of fishermen: Spinner dolphins off Muscat coast
features for dolphins and whales are their colour and colour patterns
(are they light or dark, brown or blue, do they have dots etc).
Colour, however, can vary with light conditions and the colour
of the water.
is another relevant feature for the identification of different
species of dolphins and whales. It is, however, very difficult
to estimate the size correctly from a distance and while the animal
is moving. Even rough estimates can be of some help for identification
Also size, shape and colour of the dorsal fin (which is often
visible), fluke and flippers can help to positively identify an
animal. The location of these features on the body also varies
greatly from species to species.
are sometimes lifted high into the air before diving and can be
of great help in the identification of these animals. Overall
body shape can be used as an identification feature, though one
rarely gets to see the whole animal.
them:Turtles are abundant in Omans seas
feature much easier to assess is the beak. It can be used for
identification. There is also some variation in the way in which
different dolphin and whale species dive and come out of the water.
in a very general sense, that is whether the animal bowrides,
lobtails, leaps and so on and how it performs these actions, can
serve to indicate the species. Dolphins and whales are more social
animals. Group size can therefore be taken as an indicator for
a certain species.
A feature especially useful for identification of larger
whales is its blow. Its height, shape and visibility can be used
as the sole feature needed for identification.
to identify dolphins fish?
Despite the fact that they live in the ocean, dolphins are warm-blooded
mammals that breathe and suckle their young.
is the difference between dolphins and whales?
is a difference between what we call a whale and what biologically
is a whale. We tend to use whale for larger mammals living in
the sea. Whales have baleen whereas dolphins have teeth. Killer
whales for instance therefore are technically dolphins.
do they eat?
Dolphins feed on most kinds of fish, including mullet, whiting,
snapper, tuna, bream and invertebrates such as squid.
do they sleep?
Dolphins sleep on the surface with only the blow hole exposed.
Dolphins are conscious breathers, which means that
they have to be awake or semi-conscious to breathe, otherwise
they would drown.
doze for a few minutes at a time, and their blow hole periodically
opens and closes by reflex action.
sleep in a semi-conscious state, resting one side of the brain
for a short time then swapping over. This technique also allows
them to be aware of any dangers.
deep can dolphins dive?
Bottlenose dolphins can dive to depths of 21 metres and even to
30 metres. Rissos dolphins can dive to over 1000 metres.
do they jump?
There are four probable reasons that dolphins jump: either to
play, for communication with other dolphins, to get rid of parasites,
or to get a better view over the water.
Some species of dolphins migrate. Some species travel hundreds
of kilometres in circular territory, probably for food.
is their gestation period? Gestation lasts for 10 to
long do calves stay with their mothers?
Calves stay with their mothers up to five years or longer. Mothers
are very protective and keep the calf at their side at all times
during this period.
do their sounds mean?
Dolphins use sound (ie sonar or echo-location) to find objects
and hunt for fish. These sounds are of high frequency and send
out at a rate of several hundred per second.
sounds bounce off objects in the water and are picked up by special
tissue in the lower jaw of the dolphin which conducts the echo
through to the inner ear.
allows dolphins to identify objects without having to touch them.
Dolphins also sometimes use their sonar to stun fish. They also
use sound to communicate with one another.
long can dolphins stay under water?
For periods of up to 1 hour, although five minutes is usually
we see dolphins even when the sea is rough?
No, we cannot since dolphins usually avoid the surface when the
sea is rough.
dolphins look after their sick?
They are known for doing so, although this behaviour has rarely
been observed in the wild. Dolphins stay underneath and at the
sides of the sick and by doing so keep them close to the surface
so that they can breathe.
they do give up after some time. Dolphins have also been observed
swimming away from another dolphin entangled in a net.
intelligent are dolphins?
Since no one has come up with a method to successfully rate the
intelligence of a human being, measuring the intelligence of other
species has proven difficult if not impossible.
evaluation of dolphins intelligence is especially difficult,
because they are adjusted to an entirely different medium, ie
water. However, we can say that dolphins are fast learners and
are able to generalise and learn sign language.
whales local or migratory?
Most whales are migratory and travel to the poles in the summer
and back to warm temperate waters in winter. Some populations
are resident though.
whales and dolphins happy in captivity?
No, not at all. In captivity, the average age for dolphins is
6 years. They tend to develop disturbed behavioural patterns too.
Some countries, for example Britain have given up keeping dolphins
you feed dolphins and whales?
No, you should not. Feeding them will change their food behaviour
and will have a detrimental effect on the marine life in general.
If you feed dolphins or whales, you interrupt the natural food
long is the gestation period for whales? It is between
10 to 13 months. Whales give birth to a calf every 2 to 3 years.
long is their lactation period? The calf is fed for 3
to 9 months.
many calves do whales have? Whales gives birth to one
calf at a time.
long do whales stay underwater?
They mostly stay underwater for 3 to 8 minutes. However, longer
periods of up to 30 minutes have been recorded.
whales and dolphins communicate across species?
They understand basic elements of other dolphin or whale species
behaviour, some to the extent that they interbreed like rough
toothed and bottlenose dolphins.
whales and dolphins aggressive and dangerous?
Most dolphin and whale species are peaceful and rather shy. So
far humans have proven to be of greater danger to whales and dolphins
than the other way round.
some species like killer whales and pygmy killer whales can become
aggressive. They are much less aggressive than their names imply
though. If you go diving with whales, the danger is mostly because
of their size. They might harm you without intending to do so.
do whales strand?
There are different theories on this issue. The most recent evidence
suggests that whales strand if their hearing is impaired by loud
noise which can be caused by the Navys sonar systems for
are killer whales called killer whales?
They are called killer whales due to the fact that they feed largely
on warm blooded prey. They hunt even whales occasionally, therefore
the name "killer (of) whales".
are sperm whales called sperm whales?
Sperm whales were hunted for spermacetes, a substance found in
their heads which was used to the production of perfumes, candles
well do whales and dolphins hear and see under water?
Whales and dolphins hear very well underwater, though not in air.
A human beings hearing ranges from 40 Hz to 20 kHz. Dolphins
use very high sounds for echolocation, so they can hear sounds
as high as 150 kHz. Low sounds travel very far underwater, so
whales can hear up to 20 Hz.
sight, however, is not very good, as it is not very important
underwater. In deeper waters there is darkness. Dolphins and whales,
therefore, navigate by their hearing instead of their sight.
can we distinguish a male whale from a female?
At sea it is difficult to distinguish the two. Among baleen whales,
females tend to be larger than males. Toothed whales males tend
to be larger. They might also have other distinguishing features
such as larger melons, larger dorsal fins or distinctive teeth.
wild dolphins is a thrilling way to start the day and the lucky
may even come across one of the many species of whales that can
be found just a few kilometres from Muscats rugged coast.
every trip guarantees a sighting, but you are sure to enjoy a
trip out to sea and enhance your knowledge of natures most
fascinating marine mammals with the Arabian Sea Safaris on-board
cetacean specialist, who will give a brief presentation on Omans
whales and dolphins and help you understand their behaviour, ecology
to availability, also provided will be underwater hydrophones
in order to hear the beautiful whale and dolphin songs. A special
activity is provided for children to help their identification
Adapted from Oman Observer Newspaper. Nizwa.NET is not responsible