Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 10 July 2020

Environment

Watch: rare albino Risso's dolphin spotted off Fujairah coast

The dolphin was among a pod of about 2,000 adults and juveniles

A rare albino Risso's dolphin has been spotted among a pod of the mammals off the coast of Fujairah.

A video showing about 2,000 adults and juveniles leaping from the water was filmed on Monday.

The pod was sighted in deep water about 35 kilometres off Fujairah’s southern coastline.

Footage of the spectacular event was sent to the Fujairah Whale Project who posted it on their Facebook page.

“The video depicts a mixed group of adults and juveniles and is the first time a pod of this size has been reported in these waters,” the project said.

Among the dolphins, and clearly visible in the video, is a very rare albino individual

Fujairah Whale Project

“Among the dolphins, and clearly visible in the video, is a very rare albino individual.

“This is the first albino recording for the project and indeed for Fujairah, and quite possibly the wider region.”

Risso's dolphins can be found in almost all temperate and tropical waters around the world.

The species prefers deep water but can be found closer to shore where there is more food.

Natalie Banks, founder of Azraq, a UAE marine conservation organisation, said Risso’s dolphins were incredibly sociable animals.

As they get older, linear scars caused by their social interaction tend to cover the length of their bodies.

“They are quite stocky, with blunt heads and no discernible beak and can reach up to four metres long,” Ms Banks said.

Risso's dolphins in Portugal. Getty Images
Risso's dolphins in Portugal. Getty Images

“Young Risso's dolphins are a grey, olive-brown colour. But as they get older, they get whiter and whiter – a result of numerous scars and scratches, usually from other Risso's dolphins during social interactions.

“However, it is extremely rare to see an albino Risso's dolphin. There have been very few sightings of albino Risso's dolphins globally.

“Sadly, albino marine species stand out to predators and the albinism can be tied to numerous health issues such as poor eyesight and extreme susceptibility to sunlight.

“However, albino marine species have been known to live for many years, including Migaloo, the world’s most famous humpback whale, first spotted in 1991 and recently spotted again in Australia.”

The Fujairah Whale and Dolphin Research Project is funded by the office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah, and run by the Port of Fujairah and Five Oceans Environmental Services.

In April 2018, a team of scientists conducting an aerial survey off the coast of the emirate were surprised to spot a species never before recorded in UAE waters.

An animal identified as a rough-toothed dolphin was spotted among a pod of bottlenose dolphins.

Ms Banks described the recent footage of the Risso’s as “spectacular”.

“[It] has captured the Risso's dolphins migrating, which is exciting as there is very little known about the migration patterns,” she said.

“They can be seen leaping out the water, breaching, tail and head-slapping.

“I have travelled to places like South Africa and paid quite a lot of money to experience just this.

“And here it is in my own backyard – in the United Arab Emirates – just spectacular!”

Updated: April 15, 2020 08:08 AM

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