New population of rare Irrawaddy dolphins found in Palawan

May 02, 2013
Some Irrawaddy dolphin populations are classified by IUCN as critically endangered. Credit: Mavic Matillano

A new Philippine population of critically-endangered Irrawaddy dolphins was reported recently by WWF-Philippines.

Spotted by chance off Quezon, Palawan in Western Philippines, this pod of rare marine mammals, locally called Lampasut, was observed displaying typical behavior, foraging for prey around lift net fish traps sitting approximately one kilometer offshore.

WWF staff reported seeing at least 20 individuals in just one sighting. This is a relatively large sized pod for this uncommon , where groups of fewer than six individuals are most common.

Previous populations of these have been documented in Malampaya Sound, as well as off the island of Panay.

The Quezon pod represents the fourth known group of Irrawaddy dolphins reported in the Philippines.

The Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), is a euryhaline species of oceanic dolphin.

With the ability to adapt to a wide range of salinities, this dolphin is found in discontinuous subpopulations near coasts and in estuaries and rivers in areas stretching from the to and the Philippines.

Lightly colored all over, Irrawaddy dolphins are similar to the in appearance. They have a blunt, rounded head, and an indistinct beak. Their dorsal fin is short, blunt and triangular.

In the wild, they have been seen spitting out streams of water, a rather unique and peculiar behavior.

Contrary to what some people believe, this animal is not a true river dolphin, but an oceanic dolphin that lives in brackish water near coasts, river mouths and in estuaries. 

This species enjoys the highest level of international protection. All trade is forbidden, under international agreements. Some Irrawaddy are classified by the IUCN as critically endangered.

This includes the Malampaya Sound sub-population in the Philippines. Irrawaddy dolphins in general however, are IUCN listed as a , which applies throughout their whole range.

In 2004, CITES transferred the Irrawaddy dolphin from Appendix II to Appendix I, which forbids all commercial trade in species that are threatened with extinction. The Irrawaddy dolphin is listed on both Appendixes I and II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

Photos of the Quezon pod were captured, positively confirming species identity. For Palawan, this is a very good sign. Though wholly unexpected, this surprise is a tremendous new discovery to celebrate Earth Day in the Coral Triangle.

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

18 endangered dolphins spotted off Borneo: WWF

Feb 07, 2012

Conservation group WWF said it spotted 18 critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in Indonesian waters off Borneo island Tuesday and called for greater protection of the species' habitat.

WWF calls for action to save Mekong dolphins

Aug 17, 2011

Conservation group WWF on Wednesday called for urgent action to prevent the extinction of freshwater dolphins in the Mekong River, including the creation of special conservation zones.

Bangladesh to set up dolphin sanctuaries

Oct 31, 2011

Bangladesh will declare three river areas in its southwest as dolphin sanctuaries, wildlife officials said Monday, in a bid to protect the country's population of endangered freshwater cetaceans.

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.