It was an unexpected but welcomed call, when the other afternoon I picked up the phone and heard the voice of the Principal Marine Environment Officer of Dubai Municipality, Mr Khan, reporting that a dead dolphin had been found on the Jumeirah Beach Park.
I said: ” Oh such a sad news…Thank you! Give me an hour and I will be there!”
Strandings are always sad events, and everybody wishes to see dolphins alive rather than dead. But not having any knowledge in resuscitation techniques yet, the only thing we can effectively do is to utilise the unfortunate animal to gather as much information as we can, to hopefully help the live ones. And a stranded dolphin is a pot of gold for researchers!
Within two hours a small team consisting of one skilled veterinarian, Dr. Ana Salbany, from Dolphin Bay Atlantis the Palm, Traill Stocker from Dubai Dolphinarium and myself were on the site.
It was indeed a dolphin. A small dolphin and surprisingly a finless porpoise!
This is supposedly the rarest species among the three species that are known to occur in UAE waters. It is a small dolphin and as by its name it has no dorsal fin. This, added to his shy and elusive behaviour makes even more difficult to sight and study them.
Very little is known about this species world wide, as very few studies have been conducted, despite the latest Red List Assessment having categorised this species as Vulnerable. Its preference of coastal shallow waters makes it even more susceptible to antropogenic impact.
Finding a dead finless porpoise is definitely a worrying sign and raises concern for the survival of this species (this is the fifth recorded stranding in the Gulf since the beginning of the year), on the other hand it is an indication that this species still occurs in this area.
We managed to collect all the necessary measurements and conduct a full necropsy. We determined that it was an adult male finless porpoise. We collected skin samples for future genetic analysis and examined all the organs. No sign of parasites were found and unfortunately due to the advanced state of decomposition we were unable to univocally determined if the cause of death could have been a boat collision or net entanglement. A full report has been compiled and sent to The Marine Environment and Wildlife Section, Dubai Municipality.
A special thank you goes to Mr. Khan, Dubai Municipality, for contacting us and to the great team that kindly agreed to join me at the site. It has been a successful first attempt and we proved that a stranding network could work if we create a communication channel and enough people that know the importance of reporting stranding.