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Happy Trash-tober!

To celebrate spooky season, our WDC North America team decided to do our part to...
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Join WDC for STEM Week 2021!

Hey! Join me and Whale & Dolphin Conservation for STEM Week 2021! If you're interested...
Dead dolphins on the beach

Faroe Islands whale and dolphin slaughter – what have we done and what are we doing?

The massacre of 1,428 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður on the Faroe Islands on 12th...
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Orcas, sea lions, and viral videos

"What do I do?!" You may have seen the latest viral animal video involving a...
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The horror – reflecting on the massacre of 1,428 dolphins on the Faroe Islands

Like you and millions of people around the globe, I felt horrified by the news...
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Meet the 2021 WDC Interns!

Every spring and summer, we get to open up our office to interns from all...
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Orca Month 2021 – We are Family

We have come to the end of another amazing Orca Action Month, and for the...
Text says "Does social and racial justice have a place in saving whales? Then below that is a simple drawing of a humpback whale and to the right of the whale, white text says "Yes, it does." In small text, whales.org is at the bottom.

Does social and racial justice have a place in saving whales?

The short answer is YES. The planet needs whales and whales need us, ALL of...

Sperm whale ’poo-nado’ – murky waters but clear signal?

sperm whale defecating

In a dramatic ‘racheting up’ of the old joke which runs along the lines of “who’d want to swim in the sea?  After all, that’s where fish go to the toilet” comes the story currently receiving much media attention, concerning a group of free divers photographing sperm whales underwater off Dominica under government permit.

Visibility turned to near-zero as the divers were suddenly engulfed by a giant cloud of sperm whale poo which rapidly spread to cover over 30 metres, reportedly whipped up into a ‘whirlwind’ by the whale spinning on its side and fanning its massive fluke (tail).

Why might whales do this?

Described as a ‘poo-nado’ by Canadian underwater photographer, Keri Wilk, it is speculated that this behaviour could be a defence mechanism, warning off anyone approaching too closely. This is  similar to skunks spraying or fulmar chicks vomiting as a deterrent; and indeed pygmy and dwarf sperm whales use a fascinating deterrent dubbed the ‘squid tactic‘ whereby they can eject a dense cloud of over 12 litres (3 gallons) of dark, reddish-brown inky liquid from a special intestinal sac  to confuse or deter potential predators.

Although the press is widely reporting this behaviour as ‘rarely seen’, it may not be that uncommon.  Certainly this has also been witnessed by professional film-maker and underwater photographer, Andrew Sutton, and author and broadcaster, Philip Hoare, both WDC ambassadors, who have filmed these whales under licence in their professional capacity.  Philip commented: “Fascinating to read media coverage of a sperm whale ‘poonado’ off Dominica.  Andrew Sutton and I both experienced similar incidents with sperm whales, in the Azores and Sri Lanka.  In the former, a sperm whale calf seemed to use defecation as a clear (or not so clear!) ‘smokescreen’ when I inadvertently came too close to it.  Was this a nervous loosening of its bowels, too?  Perhaps that is, in itself, an evolutionary development.”

WDC’s position is that – with the exception of a very small number of professionals working under strict permit conditions and using their outputs to directly benefit whale conservation  –  the rest of us should not attempt to get into the water with whales or dolphins, for the safety and welfare of both parties.