UAE residents asked to report dolphin activity and help build database
DUBAI // Residents are being asked to help build a dolphin database by reporting any sightings.
The UAE Dolphin Project aims to provide scientific details about the population size and movement of wild dolphins.
“The target is to involve everyone – scientists and the general public,” said Ada Natoli, the project director and conservation genetic researcher at the non-profit initiative. “Once you set up a scientific study, then you start to understand if a population is resident, transitory, here for only one season or migratory.
“It is probable the three most frequently reported species are resident here, as they are in other parts of the world where they are studied.”
Those species are the Indo-Pacific bottlenose, the Indo-Pacific humpback and the rare finless porpoise.
The project’s website, which can be found at www.uaedolphinproject.org, is racking up hits already, with four sightings last week and 100 since its launch in December.
There have been other efforts to study dolphins along the UAE coast, but this is the first project to gather data on all pods that hunt and swim in the Arabian Gulf.
“It’s important to document biodiversity in the UAE,” said Rima Jabado, a UAE-based marine biologist. “There has been some information before but there hasn’t been a dedicated project like this.
“Even as a researcher, you can’t be in every location every day. But if you involve people in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, RAK and Fujairah who go out fishing or for recreation, you get a better picture of the whole coastline.”
People can report their sightings of dolphins using Facebook, Twitter, email or text messages.
“It’s a matter of awareness,” said Ms Natoli, an adjunct assistant professor in the biology department of the United Arab Emirates University. “People now don’t look for them but once they know dolphins can be seen, they will keep an eye open.
“That’s why I’m trying to push for public awareness.”
The project has also provided tips and advice on how to safely and humanely interact with the creatures (see factbox, left).
“There are clear rules people should follow, like refrain from touching, swimming or feeding wild dolphins,” Ms Natoli said.
“As fantastic as dolphins are, it’s important to remember they weigh 300 kilograms and have a lot of teeth, so people must stay safe because it’s not a small animal.”
Updated: April 8, 2013 04:00 AM