for Pleasure and Study
| Singapore Dolphin Study Group
Brassaud tells how we can all play a contributory part
in ensuring the continued existence of these highly intelligent mammals.
Photos by Catherine Brassaud and Dr Thomas
According to the
ongoing Singapore Wild Marine Mammal Survey (SWIMMS) conducted by
the Dolphin Study Group at the National University of Singapore, four
types of small cetaceans have been sighted in Singapore waters: the
Bottlenose, Indo-Pacific Humpback and Irrawaddy dolphins, and the
Finless Porpoise. Their presence is not doubted.
The Singapore Wild Marine Mammal Survey (SWIMMS) is a project by The
Dolphin Study Group, part of the Tropical Marine Science Institute
(TMSI) based at the National University of Singapore. This project
started in May 1996 and is focused on studying the general distribution
of dolphins and dugongs in Singapore and regional waters.
For that purpose, a sighting form was distributed to the public interested
in the marine environment. This form enabled people to report all
information related to their observations of marine mammals such as
the date, time, location, species, numbers and basic behaviour. More
than 100 sighting forms have been received, and more continue to come
Our website showcases these numerous observations of dolphins around
Singapore. Take some time to look at the results and check out the
different dolphin species. Apart from printing a copy of the sighting
form form from the website, it is also available from many dive shops
and dive clubs in Singapore.
You can contribute significantly to the project by providing us with
real-time reports of marine mammals in Singapore waters. This means
that if possible, you should contact us within an hour or two after
observing the animals, noting down the number of individuals, the
time, and most importantly, die location of the sighting. A GPS (Global
Positioning Satellite) reading of the location would be even better,
but otherwise, we can usually cope with a brief description of the
place where the marine mammals had been spotted. The species identification
is not absolutely necessary. The real-time reporting on the location
of the sighting remains the most valuable information as it enables
us to go straight out to the area where the animals were seen.
It does not have a beak
but a wide smile instead.
It has a small
dorsal fin (below)
It has a characteristic hump
at the dorsal fin (below)
Dolphin mother and calf
The young ones are dark grey,
and lighten to a rose-pink
as they mature. This species
is threatened by destruction
of its coastal habitats
and from capture for
the marine park trade.
mother and calf
Dugong or Sea Cow
It grazes on seagrass beds
in coastal areas. These areas
are threatened by land
reclamation and pollution.
Another very interesting way to study marine mammals is to collect data
from dead animals that have been washed ashore. Marine mammals die at sea
and their bodies are usually brought ashore by currents. Carcasses are a
priceless source of information as they provide us with with plenty of details
about the animal's life history (size, colour patterns, reproductive features,
etc) and its health (diseases, parasites, etc). Should you come across a
dead or stranded marine mammal somewhere in Singapore, give us a call straightaway.
We will come to the location as soon as possible as a fresh carcass provides
scientists with more data than a mummified one! It might even be a live
animal lying on its belly! This poor creature would be suffering and needing
assistance. Don't attempt any rescue by yourself as only experienced people
can attend to an injured marine mammal. The best thing to do is still to
Another way to take part in SWIMMS is to become a volunteer in our marine
mammal surveys. Seagrass and dugong surveys will give volunteers the opportunity
to get involved in our research projects. As dugongs feed on seagrass, it
is very interesting to learn more about the distribution of seagrass in
Singapore waters. For this purpose, surveys will be carried out this year
to investigate the distribution of seagrass. A search for seagrass patches
will be done at very low tide around several islands off northern Singapore.
This search will require much walking and some snorkelling. Ground-based
surveys to collect data on dugongs have also been scheduled for one Sunday
morning per month on the offshore island of Pulau Ubin. These are based
on the valuable information gathered from previous seagrass surveys. We
are still looking for volunteers.
As members of the SWIMMS team, volunteers will acquire some skills in marine
biology and survey methods. This is a little bit of work but the rewards
are tremendoushow many lucky people get to experience encounters with
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